Legacy Blog #44: The Fall of 1995

My Beloved Daughter,

Linda’s first visit from foster care happened while our group was playing D&D on the screened front porch of our mobile home.  She rode from the mobile home that Mark and his wife lived in on Mark’s four-wheeler.  She was in good health and spirit and the cross that she wore around her neck was quite an attention-getter, let me tell you.  She had been placed with a Christian family and they had taken her to church regularly, where she had surrendered her life to God.

Michael took an immediate interest in her.  And she took an immediate liking to him.

That fall saw her returning home for visits a few times before she was finally released to return to Mark and Mary permanently.  It was good to have another familiar face in the group, although I was dismayed to find that her attraction for Michael was growing.

I admit to having a bit of jealousy, given that I had (often without even admitting it to myself) had a crush on her for a while.  But I was also puzzled by the fact that he seemed to be returning her interests, all the while keeping her at just enough arm’s length to frustrate her.  As my cousin did not go to church, she wasn’t going after leaving her foster family, either.  The “back-sliding” had begun.

To add to the chaos, Mark was killed in a car wreck on his way home from Poplar Bluff in November of 1995.  That funeral, for a man whose two sons were under five years old, was miserable.  It was the first of only two times that I ever remember seeing your Grandpa Chuck weep.

By this point, we had all joined Michael and Jeremy in their drinking parties and the night of the wreck, the group took Linda, who was inconsolable over Mark’s death, to Blue Hole—a creek on HH highway—to get drunk.

Though I had, by now, been intoxicated, I didn’t join them for this “party,” as I had a touch of the flu.

That night, I sat and thought greatly about all the changes that had happened to us that summer.  I had a close-knit group of friends that was falling apart and I was seeing people of my own generation leave this world.  I saw a friend who purported to be gay leading on a girl that I had known longer than him.  I felt guilty for feeling jealousy toward them but also felt guilty for introducing her to this man who almost seemed to take a perverse pleasure from watching her leave her faith and declare her love for him.

Two weeks later, Eric and I discussed the issue and both concluded that we had to remove Michael from the group.  We somberly told him that we were not happy about the things that had gone on in our circle of friends since his arrival and advised him that we wanted nothing further to do with him.

And then, we set about repairing the damages that had been done.

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Legacy Blog #43: The Summer of 1995

My Beloved Daughter,

The summer of 1995 found things changing for our little group.  Despite the fact that it had been James who had brought Michael and Jeremy into our circle of friends, Michael made no secret of his disdain for our older friend (well, he made no secret to anyone but James).  He often did things to make James angry.  Knowing that James had a very strong hatred toward homosexuality, Michael declared his sexuality to him merely to try to get him to stop coming around the group.  When that wouldn’t work, he secretly told him that none of us really wanted him around, causing him to break off contact with us.  I didn’t find out the extent of the betrayal until much later, as we’ll get into down the road in a later entry.

Michael, as I’d mentioned in the last entry, was a devout atheist.  He discussed his views openly and even how he had purposely blasphemed God at a point when he was younger, so he had no reason to try to come to faith later on.  Truthfully, this is the essence of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, when you no longer care if you are saved.

Your Grandma Pat puzzled him.  Just like all of my friends, he couldn’t get in the house without an affectionate hug from her.  Just as Michael’s lack of affection from his mother puzzled me, my mother’s fierce love of hugging shocked him.  In fact, my whole family pretty much puzzled him.  Here was a family who barely had the money to feed ourselves, but was rich in love for one another.

Also, you grandmother’s pure faith shocked him.  He would actually try to argue with her over it, only to be kindly rebuffed with, “I just believe because I believe, hon.”

The biggest event of that summer came when the circle of friends drove to St. Louis to go to Six Flags.  Before Vickie’s stroke, you’ll remember that you, Bree, Jay, Vickie, and I had season passes to Six Flags.  However, going there was a rare occurrence when I lived in Van Buren.  We stayed in Edwardsville, Illinois, with Eric and Jack’s older cousin and her family.  She had a nice, two-story house with pool in the back yard.

The night that we stayed there, Eric and Jack’s youngest cousin, who was no more than eight or nine, was very antagonistic toward me.  To this day, I’m not sure what I did that really set him off to dislike me.  I do remember, the next day, Michael, Josh King, a friend named Travis Hanger, and I rode in Jason’s car to Six Flags, while Eric, Jack, and their family rode in Eric’s car. If I remember correctly, that younger cousin rode with them.  At some point, the younger cousin made some goofy faces at me from their car while we were all stopped at a gas station.  I wasn’t particularly bothered by it, but Michael had had his fill of the boy’s antics by this point.  He pointed at the boy, laughing disrespectfully.  Josh, Travis, and I followed suit.

Peer pressure.

The boy left me alone for the rest of the trip.

We had fun at Six Flags.  We rode the Screaming Eagle, the Ninja, and Tom’s Twister (which has since been decommissioned).  Josh King, a massive Robin Hood fan, bought one of the green hats.  Some of the group made two music videos, something that is much easier to do nowadays than it was then.  All in all, I think Michael, who was the one who wanted to do it, paid fifty dollars for two VHS tapes.  He lip-synched “Born to be Wild” and I can’t remember the song that Eric lip-synched.  The stand out was truly Josh.  With his back-length hair and full beard, he looked like he should be playing the metal guitar and he egged the performance for all it was worth.

Instead of going back to Eric and Jack’s cousin’s house, the four of us in Michael’s car got a room at a hotel in St. Louis.  At some point in the evening, we started watching the movie OUTBREAK (a movie that had just been released that year).  Travis and I stayed in the room and watched it, while Josh and Michael decided to take a walk, where they were tricked into buying dried cooking mushrooms from some guy who offered to sell them psychedelic shrooms.  Travis and I laughed about it, feeling that it served them right.

The next day, we stopped at a Cajun restaurant near the hotel before heading back home.  That place is no longer there.  I’ve looked for it since I have lived in St. Charles.

A few weeks later, I found out that, while we were on that trip, something happened that made Jack leave our group.  I won’t put it into print but you can always ask me in private.

With our circle friends dwindling, Evan left home to go into a work program called AmeriCorps, which was kind of like the Peace Corps, but concentrating on the U.S.  That left Eric, Josh, Jason, Jeremy, me, and (sometimes) Travis and Josh’s younger brother, Jesse.  Also, at this point, Eric and his wife had a falling out and divorced.

Then Linda Clardy began getting to come back to Mark and Mary’s for visits from her foster home.

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Legacy Blog #42: A Defining Friendship

My Beloved Daughter,

In my last entry, I mentioned a couple of guys who joined my weekly D&D game at the Fantasy Shop in Poplar Bluff.  I’ll add to their story today.

While, at first, I was simply around them for that game, my buddy, James, was hanging out with them on a more regular basis.  I was a huge fan of the game Super Street Fighter 2 and would regularly beat my friends (including James) at the home version on my Super NES.  James began telling me that I should play against Michael at the game because he would definitely defeat me.

One day, while I was waiting in line at Three Rivers Community College to register for my following semesters’ classes, I ran into Michael.  We talked for a bit and I learned a little bit more about him.  Highly intelligent, he had grown bored with high school, dropped out, took his GED test, and started college at sixteen.  I was floored.  He was also a devout atheist, making him the first person to admit to that whom I’d ever met.

After we had finished registering, we headed down to the student center and played a friendly game of Super Street Fighter 2.  Finally, I was going to get a real challenge.

I trounced him.

To be fair, he was more used to playing the game on a home console and admitted to “playing atrociously” on the arcade game, which he had never touched before.  We resolved to continue the challenge at his house.

A couple of weeks later, your Uncle Evan, James, and I were driving to Poplar Bluff so that I could pick up a set of floor mats for my car, when we decided to make a detour at the turn to Highway 21 and go to see what Michael was doing.  He was just hanging out alone at his house, where he and I played Super Street Fighter 2.

I trounced him.

He rode with us to Poplar Bluff, where we all decided to eat.  I was the first time that I’d ever eaten at a Chinese Buffet.  The name of the place was Kowloon’s and I quickly grew to love Crab Rangoon.

I learned more about Michael and his relationship with his parents.  They owned a convenience store in Doniphan, as well as a few rental properties.  They had owned the liquor store that stood next to their convenience store, until they had gifted it to Michael’s older sister and her husband as a wedding gift.

I was around Michael’s mother more than I was around his father.  They kept different hours and had separate bedrooms.  They did have a date night every Friday night, which is where they were that first night that I’d gone to their house to play Street Fighter.

The two parents showed their love for him with gifts.  He constantly had money for anything that he wanted.  They had bought him a brand new car (an Oldsmobile Achieva) and, when we would hang out at their house, there would always be snacks from the store available to us.

The problem is something that only I could see at first.  There was never any affection shown to him.  While his mother told him that she loved him, I don’t recall ever seeing her hug him.  This was so foreign to me, given the massively affectionate mother that I had.  I truly think that this lack of physical touch made him crave experiences outside of the norm.  At seventeen years of age, he was already an admitted alcoholic.  He finally admitted that he was also gay.

Looking at Jeremy, Michael’s best friend, I saw an even more distinct opposite when I discovered Michael’s sexuality.  Jeremy was a ladies’ man, after all.  His mother was a business owner, as well.   But he had to work in her restaurant in order to earn his spending money, which he seemed to value more than Michael.

The two of them ingratiated themselves into our circle of friends easily.  Michael would stay the night at my house and me at his.  They would come to my house to play D&D when my campaign at the Fantasy Shop finally ended.  The rest of my friends and I would go to Michael’s house to play the RPG, as well.  Things were going smashingly.

Until the summer of 1995.

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Legacy Blog #41: The Reading Corner

My Beloved Daughter,

As I had spent so much money through War Games West the summer after high school, they sent me a five percent discount coupon for my next purchase.

I never used it.

The Reading Corner opened in Poplar Bluff the year that I started college.  The proprietor, Kevin Arnold (yes, we often teased him about his connection to the main character in the old television series, The Wonder Years), was a fellow geek who enjoyed books, comics, and gaming in all their forms.  More than a bookstore, the Reading Corner was a gathering spot for those of us who were not “the IN crowd” . . . those who wanted to embrace their inner dragon slayer or super hero.

First of all, it was a bookstore.  He sold new and used novels of all genres, particularly in what we now call the area of “speculative fiction.”  For used novels, he had a policy of trading two-for-one.  So I often had friends who would bring bags-full of paperbacks in, taking half as many unread tomes home with them.

Secondly, it was a comic store.  I had a pull list here of new Spiderman comics.  Ironically, I had subscriptions to all of the major Spidey titles at that time.  But the books would arrive at the reading corner days before my copies would arrive in the mail.  Needless to say, this prompted me to not renew my subscriptions.

Thirdly, it was an RPG store.  The fact that Kevin initiated an immediate ten-percent discount on all RPG titles was the reason that I never used that discount that I got from War Games West.  I could get pretty much any volume of any game there and he could order anything that he didn’t have in stock.  This is something that you might be familiar with now, given that you live in the Greater St. Louis area and have Barnes and Nobles and Fantasy Shops abounding.  But being able to do this in the mid-nineties in Poplar Bluff, MO, was ahead of its time.

Finally, it was a gathering spot for us.  At one point, a group of geeks (me not included) planned to start a branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) from the store, but it never took off.  At this point, Kevin started selling fantasy-type weapons and I purchased my first ninja sword there.  I ended up selling it to another friend later.

Kevin also hosted weekly Dungeons and Dragons games there.  He would select a person and ask them to prepare an adventure as the Dungeon Master.  I played in several of these weekly games as a player before he asked me to lead one.  I selected my favorite setting at the time, Dragonlance.

I couldn’t, to this day, tell you the plot of that campaign.  What I do remember most were two boys who joined the game during the first week and kept coming.  I’ll call them Michael and Jeremy.

I was always perplexed by the friendship of these two adolescents, as they seemed so different.  At first, I didn’t know much about the two of them, other than the fact that Michael always had a wallet-full of spending money and spoke with such proper English, that my high school English teacher would have swooned.  He was the more “nerdy” of the two, if I could really use that term to describe him.  He was certainly intelligent enough to fit the mold, at least from what I could tell at first.

Jeremy was the more outgoing of the two.  He tended to have girls hanging onto his every word and most of the people at the store would often joke about “Jeremy’s harem.”

I will discuss these two friends in the upcoming weeks.  But I want to finish this entry as it began.

The Reading Corner eventually moved from that small location, in the heart of the Bluff, to a larger building on the outskirts of town.  Kevin added arcade games, as well as the product line that was to be the undoing of the store . . . bongs.  He did post a sign over the display case that insisted that they were intended to be used only with tobacco.  But this did little to dissuade some overzealous parents, who reported it to some overzealous police officers.  Eventually, after I had left Van Buren for Springfield, a police raid resulted in Kevin shutting down the store.  Some said that he was preparing to sue the city police department.  That never came to pass and I never saw him again.  While researching this article, I looked him up and found him on Facebook, living in another state.  My message to him went unanswered.  Perhaps he doesn’t want to be reminded of that time of his life.

To honor him, I named the bookstore in Lily’s Redemption “The Book Corner” and named the owner Kevin.  Maybe, someday, Kevin Arnold will pick up a copy.

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Legacy Blog #40: College Professors

My Beloved Daughter,

Some of the professors at TRCC had more influence on my than any professors that I have had since.  My English Comp I professor, Carol Lewis, was a brilliant woman who spoke eloquently and always managed to make her lectures enjoyable as she would act things out while speaking and giggling in front of her classes.  She also made me re-learn the rules of writing, stating that what I had learned in high school English was often inaccurate.  I went on to take American Literature and Old Testament Literature with her.

Judy Scott was my World Literature and New Testament Literature professor.  A genteel southern belle, her manner of speaking was so different than Professor Lewis’s and, yet, anyone who knew her could never doubt the woman’s keen intellect.  Her humor was more subtle but definitely present.  I took a picture of her one time and, as soon as I had done so, she advised the class that she had once been told that she looked like Mrs. Doubtfire.

Larry Speight taught one class that I took, Expository Writing.  During that semester, I had to keep a running journal of my life that would lead to him assigning me a final paper that tied in to that journal.  I think that the theme of the final paper ended up being “dating.”

It’s important to note that the Old Testament and New Testament classes were set up to only discuss the Bible as literature and they were not to be considered religion classes.  Fortunately for me, being so impressionable in my spiritual views at that time, both professors were devout Christians who did not use the classes to try to discredit the Scriptures.  Indeed, I often gained a sense of wonder at what I read, understanding the Theme that ran through the sixty-six books of God’s Word.

After I changed my major to English, I still needed a Science lab.  I took Physical Science with Dr. Kwan Lee.  Hailing from South Korea, he and his beautiful wife had come to the U.S. as atheists.  By the time that I had met him, they were devout Christians.  He wasn’t even afraid to discuss his faith in class and to use his beliefs to tie Christianity and the Laws of Physics together.

I had other professors, obviously, but these four had the most influence on my growth at that time.  While going to this college, I discovered a new hangout spot for my fellow geeks and myself.  Next week, we’ll discuss The Reading Corner.

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Legacy Blog #39: Filling in Some Blanks

My Beloved Daughter,

In this entry, I’ll cover some things that happened in the background that were important to the continuing story.

Firstly, I didn’t start college until January of 1994.  My intentions had, originally, been to go to College of the Ozarks, a Christian school near Branson that allowed you to work to pay your tuition.  Bobby Goodman was already going there and we had hoped to be roommates.  He had discovered girls and was sewing his wild oats there and, to be frank, I’m not sure the two of us would have even been in the same circle if I had attended.  The college had a limited number of students that it could accept at this time and they could not accept me until the January of 1994.

By this time, I had decided to go to the community college in Poplar Bluff, living with Grandpa Chuck and Grandma Pat to save money.  I finally got my driver’s license in early December of 1993, knowing that I would have to drive myself to school.  Originally, my major was Biology but, after my shaky hands butchered a worm that we were dissecting in Zoology, I decided to change my major to English (with an emphasis on Secondary Education).

Linda Clardy, my cousin’s younger sister-in-law, moved in with my cousin, Mark, and his wife.  They ended up with legal custody of her until the married couple had a falling out and Linda was taken from them and put into foster care.  This is an important seed that led to a major turning point in my life, something that we’ll discuss in a later entry.

My circle of friends began having changes.  Eric met Linda (not the one mentioned above), a girl whose family lived just up the road from me.  Both geniuses, they began dating and ended up getting married during Eric’s senior year of high school and Linda’s junior year.  Linda was with child and, while the marriage didn’t last, the two of them raised a beautiful daughter named Forrest.  I haven’t really interacted with her since she was much younger but, as of this writing, Forrest is now married.

In the next entry, we’ll discuss my college professors at TRCC.

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Legacy Blog #38: The First Draft

My Beloved Daughter,

During the summer after my graduation, I spent any free time that I had writing.  It took just over a month to finish the very first draft of what would eventually become the first book of The Adventure Chronicles.

From that initial, handwritten short story from my junior year, I expanded to 171 typed pages.  I tweaked the plot a bit.  Gone was the cat-worshipping cult.  The villain clan became an ancient enemy of the heroic clan (the Funakoshi).  I created the background of the war, which is still in the opening of the published book.

The most important change that I made was the creation of Yoshi.

Through several fighting video games and novels that I had enjoyed over the past couple of years, I had gained an appreciation for tough females.  Yoshi was my entry into this field.  Initially a female clone of Jamie, they both had identical fighting styles.  While her parents had always been killed by the villain clan, she had not initially been the rebellious child that she became in the published novel.

The book poured out of me that summer, as I had no other real responsibilities to keep me from writing.  When I finally finished writing it, I printed the whole thing off on my dot-matrix printer and put it in a green binder that I kept on my bookshelf.  JD used a black marker and white-out to draw a serviceable ninja-to (the short sword that the ninja used in the 80s ninja movies and, thus, my books) on the cover of the binder.  Initially, the book was simply titled ADVENTURE.

I began writing the sequel immediately.  Unfortunately, not having readers really made me lose interest and, after the first couple of chapters, I stopped writing for the next three years.  By the time I picked up where I’d left off, I had walked through some very dark places.

It took me nearly the full three years to see Who had been walking with me.

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Legacy Blog #37: The Summer of 1993

My Beloved Daughter,

The summer after my graduation, your Grandpa Chuck’s disability finally kicked in.  As he had been trying to get it started since my freshman year, he received a large check in back pay.  I would have gotten an additional check for half of what he was getting while I was still in high school, so I got a large check for this full amount in June of that year, as well.

They handed an eighteen-year-old boy a check for $10,704.

I did do some responsible things with it.  I bought a car and my first computer.

The car was a 1985 Chevrolet Cavalier.  It was two shades of tan, with power everything and a sunroof.  I still didn’t have my license, so Grandma Pat drove the car home from the dealership in Poplar Bluff.  The car cost $2,000.

Also, during that same trip to the Bluff, we stopped at a computer store and purchased my computer.  This was what I had been looking forward to since I had first found out about the lump sum that I would be getting, nearly a year before.  Unlike today, where they had the computer ready in a box, you would give them the specifications and they would build the computer for you.  I took a basic package, adding in only a copy of WordPerfect for my writing.

I purchased a computer hutch at Wal-Mart that day, along with a few Super NES games (Star Fox, Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Fatal Fury, and Super Star Wars).  When we got home, we put the hutch together in anticipation of the arrival of the computer.

A week later, it was ready.  It was “state of the art,” with four Megs of RAM, a 256 Meg hard drive, a 3.5” floppy drive, a color CRT monitor, and a dot-matrix printer.

The first thing that we did on it was create character sheets for our D&D campaign.  The internet wasn’t a thing back then, so one would usually buy a packet of character sheets from a hobby shop.  Or make them by hand.

So, now that we could print our own, we were some of the cool geeks.

I also spent three hundred dollars on D&D books, through a mail order company called Wargames West.  This was WAY before Amazon and I had to mail in a form for the books and wait several weeks for the UPS truck to deliver them.  Given that D&D books sold for between fifteen and twenty dollars apiece back then, you can see that I ordered a massive number of books.  We spent that summer putting together a D&D Ravenloft campaign that was truly epic, with several different characters who set up a base of operations from which they would trek to do their part in making the Demiplane of Dread a slightly better place.  We played almost daily back then.  It was a really happy time.

Also, during that summer, I finished the first draft of the first book of the ADVENTURE CHRONICLES.  We’ll discuss this in more detail in the next entry.

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2019 in Review

No updates for the entirety of 2019.

Yeah, I suck.

To review, the past year was a defining one.  I had two of the most painful experiences of my life.  One is completely personal and the people who already know about it are the only ones who will.  The other involved major surgery for my daughter.  She has been forced to make specific life changes and has kept that same kind demeanor that she has always had.  She’s truly been an inspiration to me.

My day job of seven years closed the St. Louis office and I found myself laid off.  After a couple of missteps in new attempts, I did finally find a job for a small, family-owned company.  I really like the job and the benefits are amazing.

My wife and I bought a house in a small, rural town in Lincoln County, MO.  We got an amazing deal and I now have an office and a basement, which I am planning to turn into a personal dojo (I have 120 square feet of mat space and plan to add to it).  Unfortunately, my commute to work is an hour or so each way, but it’s certainly worth it.

My judo club ended.  I won’t go into details as to why, but this has been a painful transition.  I did try another club but don’t really feel that this club is for me.  I’ve been in contact with my coach’s sensei and may have worked something out, though.

Also, a friendship ended this past year.  I had only known the other person for about three years but am surprised to realize how much the end of this friendship has hurt me.  The reason for the ending of the friendship is entirely my fault and my last communication with my former friend indicated that he wanted no further contact with me to discuss the issue.

Now that we are settled into the new house, I can get pack into the swing of publishing.  I have to finish the Seigi novel and have a short story anthology that I want to work on.  I’m going to continue the Legacy Blog entries and try to keep up to date with other entries, as well.

2020 is going to be a great year.

Until next time, God Bless.

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The front yard of Living Waters Christian High School was bustling on this sunny, frigid December morning as Shawna pulled her car into the teacher’s lot and parked.  As she climbed out of her vehicle, she was again overcome with the urge to grab her umbrella.  Glancing at the sky, she saw not a single cloud.

But she knew that she was supposed to bring that umbrella, so she grabbed the bag with bagel and juice in her left hand, using the other to take the umbrella. She headed for the side entrance of the building.

She stopped as she noticed a note taped to it, saying, “Please use front entrance.”

Her eyebrows raised in an arch as she turned toward the front of the building.  As she passed students, some of them greeted her warmly.  Some of them were indifferent.  Some of them looked at the umbrella that she was carrying in her right hand and rolled their eyes, a few mumbling about how weird she was.

One of the students, a shy girl by the name of Justine Madeline, walked by, her dark hair pulled into a tight ponytail and two of her school books tucked into her arms.  “Hi, Justine,” commented Shawna.  “How are you, this morning?”

Justine looked at the ground as she passed.  “I’m okay.”

Shawna stopped for a moment as the girl continued on her way.  Something had caught her eye.  But now, she could not place it.  She turned to glance at Justine’s back, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary now.

Suddenly, the overwhelming desire to open that umbrella shoved itself toward the front of her mind and she followed that still, small voice just as the sprinklers turned on and began dousing everyone in the school yard with freezing water.

Screeches filled the front grounds as the students and some faculty lunged at the front door.  Shawna stood patiently at the bottom step, waiting for everyone else to enter first.  She glanced upward and whispered, “Thank you.”

She followed the last of the teachers, the math teacher, inside.  He glanced at her as she flicked the water off of her umbrella back out the door just before closing it.  “Why does it always seem like you know what’s going to happen before it does?” he asked her.

She smiled.  “I guess I’m just blessed, Mr. Garrett.”

She walked past him as he took off his blazer, heading toward the back of the building.  She passed the library, waiving at the students who were checking out books before class.  Then she walked past the teacher’s lounge, noting that it was empty.

Approaching the utility room, she noted that Mr. Harris, the assistant principal, was scolding two students.  Next to them were the controls to the sprinkler system.  That, and the fact that the two students were both bone dry, helped the pieces fall into place.

Shawna stopped when she noticed what appeared to be glowing numbers etch themselves on each of their heads.  One boy, whose head brandished the number five, was yelling, “My old man’s gonna kill me!”

The other one, with the number 3, yelled words that would make a sailor blush.

Mr. Harris, himself a Sunday School teacher, leveled a finger at the latter boy and said, “I’ll not hear anything like that from you again, Johnson.”

The two boys looked at Shawna and then Mr. Harris did, as well.  “I have it under control, Ms. Weston,” he said as he noticed her umbrella.  He cocked an eyebrow, shook his head, and turned back to the students.

With one last glance at the two students, just as the numbers—which the assistant principal obviously could not see—faded away, Shawna marched quickly to her room, the History class.  Setting the bagel and juice on her desk, she hung the umbrella from her coat rack.  Dropping to her knees in front of her chair, she prayed, Lord, what are you trying to tell me?

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