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SHORT STORY


TITLE: Learn and Live
By Perry Stearnes
04/15/12
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Hard lessons from the past can haunt you. Through faithful living, they can be used to help others.
Thump! Thump! Thump! “That should do it. These stupid cherry blossoms won’t blow over now.” Jimmy planted the cherry blossoms for his wife Reba with hopes of taking her mind off the little “miff” that occurred between the two of them over visiting her family the previous night. Now he has secured them with some twine and staked them to the ground to keep them from being blown over by any high winds. “Reba! Come take a look!”
Reba sticks her head out the kitchen window. “They look good to me. But, I thought you were going to put them closer to the driveway.”
“Never satisfied!” Jimmy turns and mumbles to himself.
“What was that? I couldn’t hear you with your back turned.”
“Nothing; just looking things over. I think I like them where they are if it’s ok with you.”
“I guess I can live with them there. Hurry and get the mess cleaned up. Your son wants to ask you something.”
“Oh! If Kevin wants something he’s my son. When do you claim him?”
“When he’s asleep or in church. And, sometimes that’s one in the same.”
Kevin is Jimmy’s and Reba’s sixteen year old son who thinks, like most boys his age, he’s got life by the tail. All he knows is what he wants, and that’s the only thing important at this juncture in his life.
Jimmy got cleaned up and went to Kevin’s room to find out what he wanted to talk to him about. “Hey Kevin! Your mom said you needed to talk to me. What can I do for you?”
“Well dad, today is Robert’s birthday and Jeff and I want to take him to the fair. Jeff’s parents won’t let him take their car because it’s making a funny noise so…”
“You were wondering if I would let you use mine. What time are you talking about leaving and coming back?”
“We want to leave about 7:00 tonight. We’ll come home around 12:00.”
“How about coming home around 11:00?”
“What’s wrong with 12:00?”
“So, you say you want to come home around 10:00?”
“No sir. 11:00 will be fine.”
“That’s what I thought. You’ve only been driving a few months. Let’s take baby steps for now. You don’t have to experience the world of freedom all in one night. We’ll see how this goes then take a look again down the road about staying out later.”
“Thanks Dad. Can I have some money for the fair and gas?”
“Man! I think I’m getting gypped on this deal. Will thirty dollars do or should I go take out a small loan?”
“I was hoping for forty but I’ll settle for the thirty.”
“Good answer.”
Jimmy walked back out to the kitchen where Reba was to find her singing to herself while setting the table for dinner. “I think I just got set up by a couple of shysters.”
“Whatever could you be talking about?” Reba said with an evil grin as she turned to put the roast on the table.
“Yeah, whatever.”
The family finished dinner and Kevin was eager to leave. “Dad, can I go now?”
“It’s only 6:30. I thought you said 7:00.”
“I meant I would have Robert and Jeff picked up by 7:00. By the time I pick them up it will be time to go.”
“You are your mother’s son.” With that comment Jimmy felt a ball of yarn hit him in the head which came from the direction of where Reba was sitting. “Ok, here are the keys. Go only to their houses and to the fair. Don’t go anywhere else. And, take your mother’s cell phone in case you need us for something.”
“Yes sir. We’ll be careful. Thanks!”
Kevin arrived at Jeff’s house first. He pulled up in the driveway and blew the horn. Jeff’s dad stuck his head out and yelled, “You too good to come in anymore?”
Jeff turned off the car and got out to go inside. “Sorry Mr. Macon. I thought Jeff would be looking for me.”
“He’ll be down in a second. How are your parents doing?”
“They’re doing alright. I think my dad’s a little nervous about me using his car tonight.”
“Well, that’s what we parents do best…worry. He’ll get used to the idea after a while.”
Jeff came hopping down the steps and just before he got to the bottom; he slipped on the edge of one. “Whoa!” yelled Jeff as he fell and rolled over into the living room.
Jeff’s father just shook his head. “That’s my boy. Full of grace and charm.”
The two boys broke out in laughter then hurried toward the front door. “We’ll see you later dad!”
“Wait a minute! What time do you plan on coming home? I’ll want to put up all the breakables before you get back.”
Kevin says through a giggle, “I have to be home by 11:00 so he won’t be any later than 10:30. And, I’ll be sure and keep an eye on “Grace” for ya.”
“Ok. You guys have fun and be careful.”
The two loaded up in the car and headed to Robert’s house. “That was quite the grand entrance you made back there. Did you practice that?”
“Yeah, yeah; ten thousand comedians out of work and you’re cracking jokes. Have you talked to Robert?”
“I talked to him earlier. He’s all pumped about tonight.”
“Good, I am too. This is gonna be fun. No parents to look over our shoulders and plenty of girls to look at!”
When they arrived at Robert’s house, he was already standing out front waiting. “About time you two got here. The folks are watching Wheel of Fortune and wanted me to help them guess the answers. I had to get out of there.”
Jeff quipped, “I bet your little sister was showing you up so you had to get out of there, right?”
“Ha! Ha! Ha! That’s almost as funny as the time your mother gave you a bowl cut.”
“Hey! She was proud of that. She had to practice somehow.”
The three of them kept launching jabs at each other all the way to the fair. When they arrived, they went straight to the games. “Who wants to challenge the great Kevin at foul shots?” Kevin asked posing like a king.
Jeff responds, “Yeah! That’s fair. You play on the varsity team and neither of us can even dribble. I don’t think so. Just show us your talent and let’s go to the shooting gallery. Then we’ll see what you’re made of.”
They all found something where they could show off for the other two. After spending a while on games, they went to the rides. All three rode the Ferris wheel and roller coaster before deciding on dueling it out in the bumper cars.
“I’m gonna knock you two right out of the rink” Robert told them. “Nobody beats me at this.”
Jeff fires back, “That’s because you’ve had so much practice driving the same way in your mom’s car.” The three spent their time in line bragging about how they were going to abuse the others. The crowd around them seemed to enjoy the entertainment as well.
Later that evening, back at Kevin’s house, Jimmy and Reba were watching the end of the 10:00 news when the phone rang and Jimmy answered it. “Hello. Yes, this is he. He did what?! Ok, I’ll be right down.” Jimmy hung up the phone and it was obvious by the expression on his face the caller didn’t have good news. “Guess who that was.”
“I’m guessing it wasn’t Reader’s Digest saying you won a million dollars.”
“Not even close. It was the police station. It seems our son and his buddies decided to go riding tonight and got pulled over. Apparently, they were a little thirsty so they decided to get something to drink. Care to guess what they were drinking?”
“Don’t tell me alcohol.”
“Bingo! I think I know someone who just earned the right to do some hard labor for awhile. I’ve got to go get him. I can’t wait to hear what he’s got to say. We’ll be back in a little while.”
Jimmy arrived at the police station and was greeted by Jeff’s and Robert’s fathers. “I guess you two are just as delighted to be here as I am.”
Robert’s father said, “Oh yeah. This is how I imagined my Friday night ending. But, I bet I make Robert’s end up worse than mine.”
Jeff’s father joined in, “Yeah, I think Jeff will be missing in action for quite awhile. Don’t take this personal, but your two sons won’t be hearing from him anytime soon.”
Jimmy spoke up, “Oh I completely understand. Apparently the three of them have some issues that need to be addressed. I don’t know if Kevin will survive this.”
The three embarrassed boys were escorted out to their fathers by one of the sergeants. “Here ya go men. Three lucky little joy riders who thought they were all grown up doing something stupid. They need to be back before the judge in two weeks for him to decide what he’s going to do to them.”
“I think they would rather stay in the jail versus what their punishments will be.” Jimmy said as he put his hand on Kevin’s shoulder. “What do you think the judge will do?”
“My guess is he’ll put them on probation for six months to a year. But, he’ll give them an ear full too. They may have to attend some classes on the dangers of drinking and driving. They’re getting off pretty light. They could have killed someone or even gotten themselves killed.” The sergeant turned to the boys, “Guys, this isn’t a game. There’s nothing “cool” about what you’ve done. See what it’s gotten you? Hopefully, you’ll learn from this. Some folks say to “live and learn”. I think it’s better to learn and live.”
Jeff’s dad says “Very well put. And, I think us parents are going to see to it that these three do a lot of learning.”
The six left the station and went to their respective homes. Jimmy didn’t say a word the entire trip and Kevin knew not to say anything either. The two of them pulled in the driveway and walked in to find Reba waiting for them.
“What are you thinking young man?! Do you know what could have happened?”
“Yes ma’am. It’s been made pretty clear to me.”
“Well, we’re going to make sure it’s real clear. You may not taste freedom again until I’m old enough to lose my memory. Now have a seat and let’s hear how this happened.” In typical “mom” fashion, she stopped and pointed her finger at him. “And, all we want is the truth.”
The three sat down at the kitchen table so Kevin could tell his story. “We went to the fair like we said we were. After a while, it got pretty boring so we decided we would go riding around and listen to the stereo. Jeff said we needed to do something to really celebrate Robert’s birthday so we came up with the idea of getting a six-pack of beer.”
Jimmy was shaking his head and asked “How did you buy it? None of you are old enough.”
“We went to a convenience store and paid some guy ten dollars to buy it for us. Then, we just went riding around and were drinking it. I only had one.”
“You only had one before you got pulled over. How do we know you weren’t going to get some more? Then it could have been worse.”
“No sir. We weren’t going to buy any more. We just wanted to try it so we could see what the big deal is about it. Beside, we didn’t have any more money.”
“Let me tell you about a couple of teenagers that did that when I was in school. In fact, they were brothers. They too thought it would be fun to ride around and drink. They had some older friends that bought it for them and they were out to show everyone how cool they were. While they were being cool, they forgot about being careful. That’s the effect alcohol has on you. You think you’re in control when you’re not really. Anyway, the older brother got to driving too fast and ran off the road. They went into a ditch and the passenger side of the car slammed against a tree. The older brother only got a sprained wrist and a broken ankle from the wreck. The younger brother was killed instantly. His name was Timmy. Most of the kids in school attended his funeral. Here was a fifteen year old boy that was happy earlier that day at school, but then was dead before midnight. His parents had a tough time coping with it and really held it against his brother. Their relationship went to almost nothing. Now, do you see why we’re so upset with you? We don’t want to attend your funeral or one of your friends’ funerals in our lifetime.”
“Yes sir. I get the point. It won’t happen again.”
“I hope not. Now we have to work on the trust issue. It’s going to be some time before you go anywhere especially driving. I think you should do a little praying and ask God for some forgiveness. He’ll probably be able to forgive a little easier than we will. Tomorrow we’ll come up with your punishment. Now get to bed.”
Kevin went to his room and straight to bed. Jimmy looks at Reba and sees the expression on her face. He could tell the thought of “what if” was running through her head. “He’ll be ok. Maybe this scared him enough to not try it again.”
“I hope you’re right. I don’t think I can take another incident like this. He’s lucky this time, but next time he might not be. You and I both remember what it was like when Timmy got killed. I couldn’t take it if something like that happened to Kevin.”
Jimmy put his hand on his wife’s. “All we can do is talk to him and pray it doesn’t. Hopefully, he’ll listen and not give in to peer pressure. We’re both tired so let’s go to bed and we can talk to him again in the morning.”
The two got ready and laid down for the night. After laying there for a few minutes, Reba could hear Jimmy quietly crying. She rolled over and gently put her arm around him and said, “It’s ok Jimmy. Timmy’s with God now. You know they both forgive you.”
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