They ARE Watching…

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Our children’s eyes are always on us, even when we don’t think they’re looking. In watching us they are developing their self image and molding themselves into the people they are to become. We are constantly educating them with our words and actions. Whether it is our intention or not. When we act a fool in front of our children we are teaching them it’s cool to act a fool. Being discourteous, dishonest or disrespectful towards others in the presence of our children is destructive. It’s destructive to their moral and spiritual development. Give them something great to mirror and emulate. They ARE watching… and usually they will become what they see in us.

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Mister… Under The Tree

Mister Under the tree

“Mister you comin’ home now?”

Charles Hill aka Mister stopped in mid sentence and looked back over his shoulder at his loving wife of forty-two years.

“No, I didn’t plan on it.”

Mrs. Hill tried her best not to show her frustration at her husband’s stubbornness.

“Well it’s time for supper. Everybody’s finna sit down to the table. You gonna let everybody’s food get cold?”

Mister smirked at his wife, looked across the card table and shook his head at his friends before answering her.

“No you gonna let everybody’s food get cold. Now get on home and serve it to ‘em while it’s still hot. Oh, and tell everybody I said hey.”

Without sating another word Sheryl Hill turned around and walked back up the road to meet her disappointed family at the dinner table. The men around the card table shared a laugh then went back to tellin’ stories, fables and lies. Mister would much rather spend his days under the Tree with his buddies swappin’ tales than to be home sober with his wife and family. Under the tree the shine poured and the smoke flowed through the air. Cards were dealt and dominos were slammed on the flimsy card table the old men all sat around. Most days if you wanted to speak with Mr. Charles Hill that’s where you would find him, sittin’ up under the Tree.

When there was an important event he needed to attend Sheryl would actually drag him from the corner to the house. She would even use a switch if she had to. Oh how the fellas on the corner would howl when Mister was getting’ a whopin’. Mrs. Hill would drag him home, feed him, clean him up and dress him in fine clothes. Mister would be made to uphold his family or social obligation and he may even stay in character for a few days. After days of sleeping in his own bed, eating at the family table and spending quantity quality time with his wife, Mister would get a yearning for the Tree.

He would ease out the side door of the house and trudge through the warm Florida sand towards the Tree where his audience awaited him. Cheers could be heard up and down the road as they greeted their most celebrated story teller.

“What ya say there boys? Y’all miss me?”

His best buddy Scooby would always offer the first sip of moonshine.

“Yeah Mister. Sit on down here and getcha a nip.”

“I thank I will.”

Mister patted his buddy on the shoulder and sit down nest to his pal. Toast up and then down his hooch. Mrs. Hill would look down the road and just shake her head at her wayward husband. After several minutes of watching from a far she would eventually close her kitchen curtain and go back to tending to her family. Patiently she would wait until the opportunity arose for her to drag Mister back home again.

In his seventy-first year Charles Hill fell ill under that Tree. It started off with just a little cough and a sniffle. Despite his failing health, the stubborn man didn’t take to the house for treatment. Some of the old men who frequented the Tree but were good enough to go home to their wives from time to time, shared his plight with their spouses. After church one Sunday, some of these compassionate women told Mrs. Hill of their concerns for Mister. That day, after taking off her Sunday best and putting on her favorite house dress, Sheryl Hill walked down to the Tree to retrieve her old man.

“Mister. Mister! Come form under that Tree so I can tend to ya sickness now.”

He waved his hand at her and turned back to his jar.

“Mister I said come on here now and getcha treatment.”

She snatched the now frail man up from his seat and helped him to stand tall. He shook loose once he was stable. She simply pointed towards the house. He frowned back. She smacked him up side the head then pointed again. He turned homeward and shuffled along. She gave him a light shove behind his right shoulder to quicken his pace.

Once home she bathed him, fed him and laid him down to bed. Slumber came easy, for his body was tired and trying to fight off sickness. The next day a doctor’s appointment was made and the medical staff gave him the once over. The prognoses wasn’t great but it wasn’t grim either. With the proper treatment he would most certainly recover. After two weeks of being confined to the bed regaining his strength Mister started to get that itch again. He yearned for the Tree. When his wife left that Sunday for her house of worship, Mister rolled himself out of bed and slid on his shoes. Nine minutes later he was back under the Tree in the environment he so loved. The boys were overjoyed to have him back.

Members of Mister’s family were not happy about his irresponsible behavior and one in particular was very vocal about it. Charles Hill Jr. stopped by the tree to have a serious conversation with the man whom he’d received his name and life blood.

“Hey there CJ.”

“Hey Mr. Jiles.”

“You grown now boy. You can just call me Jiles.”

Charles Jr. smiled down at the intoxicated old man.

“Okay Jiles. How the rest of y’all doing today?’

Everyone around the table spoke salutations to CJ as he waved at them all. Then he walked over to his father.

“Pop, can I talk to you for a minute?”

Charles smiled up at his son. He found it humorous that he was about to be given a lecture by his boy. He stood up and walked with his adult lad away from the Tree and out of the earshot of his crew of old drunks.

“Pop, what are you doing? Aren’t you concerned about your health? You were just in the hospital two weeks ago and now you’re already back out here sitting under that Tree?”

“Son, I feel fine. This is where I want to be.”

“But what about Mama?”

“I love your mother, always have, always will.”

Charles Jr. just couldn’t understand what hold this place had on his father.

“I don’t understand. What hold this place got on you Pop?”

Mister shook his head and chuckled a little to himself. His son just didn’t understand. It was time he enlightened the lad.

“Son, you are a very talented young man. You get on that TV everyday and you talk to all the folks. People love you. I’m proud of you son. You always wanted be in that spotlight but you always been humble, patient with it. Now it’s your time. How ya feel son?”

He walked over, reached up and put his hands on his son’s broad shoulders. Mister looked his son in the face, eye to eye. Quietly he asked the question again with a serious brow yet finishing with a smile.

“How you feel son?”

Charles Jr. serious face turned to a smile as well.

“I feel great pop. My job his awesome. I would work overtime for free. Hell, sometimes I do. I thank God for my wage but I would do this for free. Yeah, I feel great.”

Mister released his grip and stepped back from his son chuckling once more.

“I feel great too son. I feel great. Down here, I ‘m the star. This is my news. I give the news; I am the news… down here! I love your mama but she won’t let me be who I want to be. You know she runs a tight house. It’s not easy. I can’t have the fellas over. I can’t drink in the house. Your mama is a wonderful woman but sometimes I feel like I can’t breath when I’m in that house with her. Down here I say what and do what I want and the people love me for it. Down here, I can breath. Smell that.”

Mister breathed deep and invited his son to do the same. Charles Jr. did as he was told. He and his father had to very different experiences.

“Whatcha smell, fresh air right?”

Charles Jr. twisted his face a little then smelled his upper lip.

“No, actually I smell cigar smoke, old drunk man and fried gizzards.”

They both laughed.

“Well son, you gotta stand upwind. You get what I’m saying though. Down here I shine; who don’t wanna shine? You got your shine, and I got mine. Them TV people love you; the folks down here under the Tree love me the same. This is where I want to be son; this is where I feel joy. I’m a seventy-one year-old Black man. I’m already on borrowed time; let me spend it how I want.”

The younger Hill understood now that he was fighting a losing battle; he also better understood his father’s feelings.

“You’re not going anywhere, anytime soon. Pop just promise me you’ll stop by the house more often and check in on Mama.”

With a nod of his head Mister agreed to his son’s demand and gave a promise he would live up to his word. The two men parted with a hug then Mister turned and walked back to the Tree. He took his rightful seat and watched his son climb back into his luxury sedan and drive off.

As he drove down the lane Charles thought of the piece he did on his father’s favorite hang out two years prior. He did a series on non-historical, historical land marks around their sleepy southern town. Mister and all his buddies got to tell their colorful tales to the camera. Each man was mostly sober and dressed in his Sunday Best. As usual Mister told the most entertaining story and was featured in the segment. Charles was proud of his father, always was and always would be. Mister was once a great man and leader in the community but this was how he wanted to spend the winter of his life.

Mister kept his word for a week or so but started to spend more time down at the Tree again. His cough returned as did the snot and boogers in his grey nose hairs. He never let on to his family that he was not feeling well. Winter was coming to an end and Mister was growing irreversibly fatigued. Nod in his chair he would from time to time, sometimes in mid sentence. One day while drinking and nodding Mister fell into a deep sleep. His buddies thought him to just be tired so they laid his head forward on the card table and let him sleep. The stories resumed followed by laughter as Mister took his last labored breaths. Winter had come to an end and Mister would soon spring into the afterlife. As his soul exited it’s housing, Charles Hill Sr. called on his Lord and Savior asking for forgiveness for his sins while pleading for mercy and grace. Despite being a drunkard. He was still a believer.

Sheryl wasn’t surprised at he husband’s death. The Lord had prepared her weeks before. She mourned her husband but was overjoyed at the prospect of him going home. The day Mister died on that table was the last day anybody sat at the Tree. The people of the community created a cenotaph in honor of Mister under the Tree. There was a plaque that read.

“Dedicated to the greatest story teller of all time Charles Hill Sr. Aka. Mister. You are missed Brother.”

A beautiful garden was planted by Mrs. Hill and some of the ladies of the church adjacent to the memorial. They each took turns tending to it. All of the drunks and gamblers dispersed back to their homes and former haunts. It would seem that Mister and his stories was the lifeblood of the community of the Tree. His son would later think back to his conversation with the man weeks before his passing. Everybody wants to shine and under that Tree everyday is where his pop shined. That was his pop, a character for the ages. Forever will his legend live… under that Tree.

Black Sheep Boy One Man’s Trash, Another Man’s Treasure (As told to me by Salomon James Pugh)

Black Sheep Boy

“You know I put that old television set out in front of my house the night before trash day and it was gone in less than an hour.”

“I’m happy for them. If their resourceful enough to take some one else’s trash and make money from it good for them. Their only overhead is tools and gas for their vehicle because they don’t pay anything for their products.”

Salomon scratched his chin and rested his palm on the rake he was using. Our conversation sparked an old story in his mind. I’m forever grateful he shared it with us.

“You know their was a man in our neighborhood we called The Scrap Man. This man rode all around all of the neighborhoods everyday collecting old appliances, furniture, tools and equipment. He knew the trash schedule of every neighborhood so he was there collecting before anybody else. He knew how to get money out of almost everything. He took apart motors, repaired them and used them for something else. As kids we used to go in his yard and eat the fruit off of his trees. He would run us off but that didn’t stop us from coming back when the new season came. The man rode around in the same truck for over thirty years with a knot of money in his front pants pockets, shirt pockets and glove box.”

My friend was concerned about the old man’s safety, riding around with a bunch of cash, collecting peoples’ trash.

“You mean to tell me that, that old man road around with all of that money on him and nobody tried to rob him or anything?”

Salmon removed one of his work gloves, smiled and wiped his brow before answering.

“No, everybody knew him and his family and boy he had a big family. Nobody was gonna mess with The Scrap Man and if somebody did everybody else might deal wit ‘em. That’s how the neighborhood was back then; people looked out for each other. The Scrap Man had a lot of kids but he had this son, one of the younger ones. He found a lot of trouble and he was kind of the black sheep of the family. The Scrap Man brought that Black Sheep Boy back home to live with him so he could keep an eye on him. He gave him a little work to do and kept a roof over his head. The rest of the brothers and sisters looked down on him and treated him worse than everyone else in the family. But he didn’t care. That Black Sheep Boy was slowly getting his life together. He got to spend plenty time ‘round his daddy, soaking up wisdom and learning about his business.”

Salomon paused to take sip of his sweet tea; he was growing parched under the Florida Sun. I waited patiently for the conclusion to his tale.

“In The Scrap Man’s backyard he had more than just fruit trees; he had what we kids called statues in his backyard. There was TVs, washing machines, dishwashers, dryers, refrigerators, microwaves and stuff lined up everywhere. The Scrap Man went out there and tended to his statues everyday. One day The Scrap Man died. All his kids and kin came from everywhere to get what they felt they deserved. So they went through the house, his pants, shirts and truck getting all they could. Some of them were talking about selling the house; so that Black Sheep Boy was told he was gonna have to find somewhere else to live. That joker was low, missing his daddy and trying to figure out where he was gonna live once the house was sold. He walked around in that backyard around those statues trying ta feel closer to his daddy. Then he started going through the statues. He figured he could fix them like his daddy. Low and behold in each of those washers and fridges and stuff was money.”

“What!”

Salomon chuckled and smiled.

“Yes sir. There was money in every one, stuffed in the corners and cracks and what not. And, he got it all. Every dime was now his. That Black Sheep Boy now had a whole lot of white wool.”

We all laughed. Then I chimed in.

“Well I guess that proves that one man’s trash can truly turn into another man’s treasure. That Black Sheep Boy came out okay, huh?”

“You can bet he did. He took all that money, moved away and ain’t nobody heard from him since. Some folks say he bought a condo down in West Palm. Well, wherever he is I bet he ain’t being treated like no Black Sheep Boy no more.”

We all laughed as Salomon picked up his rake and started clearing leaves once more. That story reminded me of what a roller coaster life can be. Sometimes you’re up and others you may be down. No matter where you are on that roller coaster you should be good to folks. Because, the same one you look down on today, you may have to look up to tomorrow.

A Swell Of Hope And Inspiration

swell

What are you leaving in your wake? We all have to wade through the murky waters of this life making waves as we travel from beginning to end but what are we leaving behind? We all have a contribution to offer, a purpose in our journey. Some just want to tread water and others jump in making a splash. Let your time here be remembered by what you’ve accomplished, don’t float aimlessly allowing the waves of others to determine what direction you go in life, the surf landing you on shores you’d rather not be. Don’t allow yourself to become a castaway on a deserted island of doom and desperation and destitute. Kick and paddle with all your might towards your goals and dreams, leave a swell of hope and inspiration for others to follow.

Arthur, Author

Timeless_Books

David Lopez was a mountainous man, homicide detective in the Orlando Police Department. Fair and just; he took pride in his work. As a beat cop he always held a good relationship with the people of the community he served. David was a hero to many of the children because of his impressive physique and the respect he showed them. The uniform made him look almost like a superhero. In a neighborhood where the police were often believed to be a negative presence, David had inspired some of the children to become law enforcement officers. Eventually he joined homicide because he figured he could serve more by solving murders and taking dangerous criminals off of the streets.

As a child David was chubby, unpopular and insecure. He had few friends and wasn’t very athletic so instead of playing sports or joining groups, he lost himself in books. There was one series of books in particular that helped to shape his young mind and grant him confidence. Refuge of the Renegade Ras Cats was his favorite.

The tale was of brave heroes and heroines in feline form, worlds away. The author of the series, Arthur Aimes, captured a generation of children with his exciting adventures in the saga of the Ras Cats. David was so moved that he wrote his favorite author a letter proclaiming his love for Mr. Aimes’ work and the awesome characters he’d created. When he got his response letter less than a month later, David was on top of the world. He felt like he had a direct line to the genius.

Arthur detailed in the letter how David could draw upon the strength of the Ras Cat Covenant. He now had the knowledge and insight to improve every area of his life positioning him to improve the world. All things were now obtainable in David’s world; he just needed to draw upon the lessons he’d learned. That day David changed his mind state, self image and eventually his body image.

David started training and even became a little more social. He grew a few inches in height as well as on his arms and chest. His transformation thrust him into the high school popular crowd early in his junior year. He still wasn’t quite coordinated enough yet to make the sports teams but he became a workout warrior. After graduation he decided that he would be a real hero so he enrolled in the police academy.

Now here he was years later called to the scene of a homicide. By his side, his partner Larry Gaft. Larry was a not a large man like his partner; he was a sensitive man in touch with his feminine side. Gaft fancied himself a gourmet of fine dining and lover of animals. He idolized his partner and friend David Lopez; their bond was strong. David led with the questioning as they crossed the threshold of the penthouse suite.

“Hello, I’m detective Lopez and this here is Detective Gaft and who might you be?”

“Hi, I’m Joel Simmonds, Mr. Aimes’ assistant .”

“Did you find the deceased?”

Joel removed his glasses and wiped away a tear before answering the detective’s question. After composing himself, Joel put back on his glasses, cleared his throat and answered the question.

“No, I was in my room on the third floor; apparently Mr. Aimes was keeping company.”

Joel pointed over to three scantily dressed young ladies sitting on a love seat across the room. The women looked pretty shaken up.

“So from your understanding, what happened here?”

“Apparently Mr. Aimes was enjoying the company of those young ladies of the night and someone knocked on the door. Mr. Aimes looked through the peak hole and after cursing a little about the interruption, let the person in. The guy was wearing a mask. Once he was inside he pulled a gun and shot Mr. Aimes until his gun was empty.”

Gaft was skeptical about Mr. Simmonds account of the events.

“Can you tell me how you know this sir?”

“The girls told me.”

“Oh, and how exactly did you know the gun was empty?”

“The girls told me it was clicking and no more bullets were coming out. They said he pulled the trigger over and over again.”

David was lost in his own thoughts. He had some questions of his own to ask Joel Simmonds.

“Larry, why don’t you go over there and get a statement from the young ladies. We need a first hand account of exactly what happened here. I’ve got a few more questions for Mr. Simmonds here.”

Larry nodded then made his way to the women on the small couch. David turned his attention back to Joel.

“So why were you and Mr. Aimes staying in this hotel anyway?”

“We were in town for a book signing and speaking engagement.”

“Is this gentleman Author Arthur Aimes?!”

“Yes, yes it is.”

“Oh my God! I grew up on his books! I always wanted to meet him, but never like this. This is a huge loss to the world.”

Joel thought David’s excitement to be a bit over the top but he understood the effect his late boss had on the children who read his books over the years.

“Yes, it is a big loss.”

David felt a great need to solve this horrible crime. He took the murder of his friend and hero personally. Arthur Aimes would be avenged; David would see to it. He felt the need to share his story with Joel.

“You know, I wrote a letter to him when I was a kid and his response changed my life and shaped me into the man I am today.”

“Really/”

“Yes, he told me that there was great strength within me. I just needed to tap into it like a spring and then the greatness from within me will be forever flowing. It all starts with believing.”

Joel looked the large man over, debating whether or not to break his heart and ruin the image he had of his childhood hero and favorite author. He figured he was a big boy so he should be able to handle it. He was going to find out one way or another.

“Were you a chubby Puerto Rican kid with glasses living here in Central Florida?”

“Yes?”

“Was your greatest fear an alien attack on the earth?”

“Yes, you read my letter and saw my picture?”

“Yes I read your letter and I wrote you a letter back.”

“What do you mean? I thought Author Aimes wrote me back.”

“No, I wrote you back like I did all of the lonely kids that wrote the great Arthur Aimes. I used one of four closing responses I wrote up to inspire little underachievers and under believers to do more. Arthur was far too busy with his hookers, cocaine and gambling to even consider responding to his biggest fans. So, he left it to me.”

David stood there just looking straight ahead with a blank expression on his face; he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. This couldn’t be the man he worshiped all of his life. Joel was on a role. He was happy too get some stuff off of his chest. He couldn’t help himself, he had to tell it all.

“I know you want to find out who did this and you’re willing to pour a lot of resources to into finding Arthur’s killer but that won’t be necessary.”

David snapped out of his trance.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean, I know who the killer most likely is.”

David was irritated.

“Well why didn’t you lead with this?”

“Well you didn’t ask me.”

David fought a slight urge to choke the man before asking him to continue on with what he had to say about the murder.

“Please tell me what you know about this murder.”

“Mr. Aimes had another assistant who worked part time for him doing some of the same things I do. He did a very good job but was fired by Mr. Aimes three months ago.”

“Why was he fired.”

Joel took a deep breath while shaking his head. He now felt terrible for not intervening in the mess that was Arthur Aimes’ and Jack Hall’s relationship.

“Well Arthur was carrying on with Jack’s wife and that caused him to have to fire the guy. He said that he didn’t want to have to hear someone walking around all day bitching about who he banged… even if it was their wife. So, he just fired him. Then a week later he dumped Jack’s wife. He told her the thrill was gone. With Jack not being there to suffer over their relationship, there was no thrill to banging her. He ruined their family for nothing. They have three kids and a mortgage!”

It took David a few moments to digest what he had been told. He just couldn’t believe it. This was the man that taught him to dream and then dream a dream greater than that dream. How could he be this despicable of a character?

“So you think this Jack Hall was angry enough to shoot Mr. Aimes?”

“Yes without a doubt. He said he was going to do as much. He told everyone within earshot that he was going to kill the son of a bitch.”

That night after his shift David confided in his partner about his feelings on what he learned about his childhood hero.

“Larry you know I thought he was the greatest guy in the world and he was damn near the worst. I can’t believe the things he did and how he lived his life. He didn’t even write me the letter that changed my life. He was pretty much a fraud and that’s where I gained my strength from? Well what does that make me?”

His little partner walked over and put his hand on his shoulder before answering his rhetorical question.

“It makes you the hero that you have always been. You are a hero to many people in this city and you are a great man to boot. It was great that you got your confidence from a book we all have to get it from somewhere. I get mine from you. Aimes’ shortcomings are his to own, not yours. David, you are my hero.”

They both laughed as David broke Larry’s embrace.

“Alright, this is getting a little too weird for me.”

A week later they arrested Mrs. Maureen Walker for first degree murder after interviewing her husband and verifying his whereabouts at the time of the murder. Maureen was caught on camera walking into the hotel lobby shortly before the murder was committed. She was convicted and David and Larry were awarded and commended. David learned that he was still a hero after all.

Florida Springs

I’ve been told stories of natural and man made springs in Florida that were so crystal clear that you could literally see clear to the bottom. When kids went to these springs they didn’t bring beverages, they drank the same cool water in which they swam and played. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s there was a boom in golf course development. Large amounts of sand were needed to form the sand traps and bunkers on these courses. So, many construction companies took to the deep woods to dig up the sandy Florida soil. Low elevation, a little above sea level is the great state of Florida so when these deep holes are dug, often water sprung from them. The springs sometimes filled these large holes creating small lakes. Tiny ecosystems developed in these cool watering holes of purity. Turtles basked on the banks as other indigenous aquatic animals dove to the bottom in search of vegetation and smaller prey.

Many seasons of summer fun were had in these beautiful bodies of chaste, life giving liquids. But then again no one can stand in the way of progress. As the great migration of the 80’s and 90’s began, developers saw immense profits to be made. Quick over development ensued. Many of these springs were filled and paved over. Then buildings and homes were built on top of them. Trees were toppled and wildlife displaced as the money and people rolled in. The face and skyline of Florida was forever altered. With all of this progress came pollution and the deconstruction of many ecosystems. We no longer recommend drinking from any large body of water. The springs aren’t quite the same. Florida is still beautiful and she always will be but she’ll never look, smell or taste quite the same again.

Florida Springs

Crippling Yourself

crippling yourself

We all have someone in life that we’ve turned to for assistance in our time of need but some of us lose sight of what we give up when we depend on others too much. Freedom, independence, esteem and pride are sacrificed when we rely on another to do things that we should accomplish on our own. You begin to believe you can’t make it without that help and you lean harder on your source for survival. You depend on them so much that eventually you can’t stand on your own. Don’t lean on that crutch too hard because eventually it will break leaving on the ground with no way to get up. Sometimes you have to summon and draw upon your own strength; believing that you can do is the first step towards doing. Don’t cripple yourself, by not doing for yourself.