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TITLE: Small Town Stories: The Bear Creek Narratives
By Glenn A. Hascall
10/23/04
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The following are sample chapters from a work of fiction I am working on that has me using a pen name, Dave Chrisman. To help you understand the piece, you should know that the town of Bear Creek is stuck in 1963. The only ones that seem to know that a new century has come is Dave Chrisman and his family.

Glenn

+++++++++++++++++++

Bear Creek Narratives


Blessed Assurance
Dave Chrisman

“That’s the problem with young people,” Corrie Sutton began as she watched John looking for night crawlers from the comfort of our porch swing.

When she didn’t continue I decided to ask, “What’s the problem with young people.”

“Well, they’re just so… young,” she said and then allowed a laugh to bubble up from the deepest part of herself and escape over her false teeth.

Seeing as how there was truth to her observation, no matter how obvious, I let reason stand aside as I joined my elder friend in a grand exercise in mirth.

Corrie looked on as my mind recalled photos of this lovely old woman in earlier years when she was married to Forrest Engstrom, her first husband. She had watched over my dad when he was hardly noticeable to most grown ups. She had finished raising a passel of her own and they had all ventured far from the nest, so she took to herding the broods of others. The whole town thought of her as Grandma Corrie.

She survived two husbands and then decided that it just wasn’t fair to any other man to try marrying again. She jokingly referred to marriage as a death sentence for her husbands. None of us believed it for a minute. Corrie was welcome in almost any home in Bear Creek except Dale Pryor’s. Dale is as different from Corrie as night is from day or milk from cookies.

Corrie finds the good in any situation - Dale just assumes the world is falling apart so why concern yourself with people who just don’t seem to understand. Then again this story isn’t about Dale - forgive me.

Grandma Corrie sipped her lemonade and began to tap her leg as she gazed at the blue sky. She closed her eyes and a song began to flow from a clear and beautiful voice…

"Blessed assurance
Jesus is mine..."

The birds stopped their singing, for a maestro had opened her mouth in praise.

"Oh what a foretaste
Of glory divine..."

The children stopped playing and came up on the porch to hear Carrie’s sweet voice.

"Heir of salvation
Sent from above..."

I began to hum.

"Born of His Spirit
Lost in His love..."

“Come on now, your voices aren’t broken,” Corrie smiled to Haddie, John, Mary Beth and me. We all joined in.

"This is my story
This is my song
Praising my Savior
All the day long
This is my story
This is my song
Praising my Savior
All the day long"

Joan Eberhart stood across the fence and applauded at the end of the impromptu concert at the Chrisman house.

Corrie slapped my leg and grinned, “Now that’s singing, David. You should do it more often.”

“Beautiful,” Joan said from her lilac bush, “just beautiful.”

“You should join us Joanie.” Corrie was the only one that was allowed to call her that.

“I think not,” Joan smiled, “I sound more like a goose than a songbird.”

“Oh come on, Joanie, sing with us,” Corrie encouraged.

Who could deny Grandma Corrie? She began another favorite…

Some glad morning
When this life is o’er
I’ll fly away

Now somewhere in the midst of those three lines Joan began to sing. I’m certain I heard dogs howling somewhere down the road. I found myself embarrassed for my neighbor. What she lacked in skill she made up for in volume. My wife even looked out the window to see what was making all the noise. Corrie didn’t miss a beat she just kept on a singing with Joan until the song was over. The look on Joan’s face was a wonder to behold - she had met with her Creator on our front steps singing a song of future Glory.

Corrie just looked at her with tears in her eyes and said, “God made a date to hear you sing Joanie, your joyful noise is sweet in the ears of God.”

The two women hugged as I sat wondering at the wisdom and genuine love shown by a lovely old woman in what I had thought surely would have been a horribly embarrassing moment. In reality, I was the one to receive a blessing - not so much from the singing but the love for one God expressed by two women.

Come and visit us sometime at Bear Creek, just down the road from the last place you’d expect, where the best news is found at Ralph’s Barber Shop and where the arrival of the future seems to have been postponed indefinitely.



Sand Lot Injustice
Dave Chrisman


Stepping into Phil Peterson’s office was a lesson in comfort. Padded vinyl worn smooth from the many visits friends and neighbors made to his office. Yes, Phil was technically my boss, but he was everyone’s friend. However, if there was a story that might hint at controversy, I was the guy to write the story. Phil always made sure that he wrote the ‘good’ news.

“Today that bit of property south of town is being sold,” Phil said as I sat’ “I need you to write the story.”

“If you’re to believe the news at Ralph’s Barber Shop, the town council is going to purchase the property,” I replied.

“Then the story should be easy to write,” Phil produced a smile that was less than authentic.

“Is there something I should know?” I asked warily.

“All I know is that there might be a story here,” Phil said with worry lines etching his brow. Without further word he motioned toward his door.

By the time I arrived at the courthouse it was easy to see that something was terribly wrong.

“Who bought it?” asked one.

“How could this happen?” came another query.

“This is an outrage!” cried a third.

This was only the voices I could make out. A wall of noise flooded Peggy Lampert’s office.

I waited until everyone left the office and then asked the questions I would need for my story.

This was the story I filed.

Many, if not most in our little community had hoped the town fathers would be successful in the purchase of a vacant lot in the south part of Bear Creek on the corner of Fir and Maple. In fact, most assumed that such a purchase would be without contest.

Perhaps that is why there is such discord among the residents of Bear Creek. The plot of land in question is in an ideal location for a new park and none would deny that such a facility would be well used and appreciated for generations to come. Records indicate that the town’s only other park, Palmer Memorial, was erected in 1937 and the response to Friday’s news by our local governing board would seem to indicate profound disappointment.

Bear Creek Mayor Ernest Rafferty expressed what most in our community are feeling, “Anytime you work as hard for something as the council did on this project, there’s bound to be some disappointment. We just hope that whoever now owns the land will make good use of the plot.”

Peggy Lampert, the town Register of Deeds was able to confirm on Friday that the land had, in fact, been purchased but the specifics of the sale were sealed and would be disclosed only at the discretion of the new owner. No immediate plans were available for the development of the parcel.

I filed the story and made my way home wondering at what Phil knew about the story and how he seemed to know when to pass his unwanted assignments along. Not that I really minded, it was just that he seemed uncanny in his ability to keep his hands clean of personally sharing disappointing news with our community.

Once outside the Bear Creek Weekly News office I breathed in the clean air of our community and found myself grateful that I had chosen to go home. It wasn’t long before I heard the voices of young boys and the satisfying crack of a baseball bat as a ball was sent aloft in one of the local sand lot games. Boys were cheering until we all heard the less satisfying crack of a window.

I rounded the corner to see that the ball had destroyed the front window of Dale Pryor’s little house. The boy holding the bat was John Chrisman, my son.

“I’m sorry, dad.” He told me quietly.

“I wish you guys had a better place to play ball. Well, let’s go see Mr. Pryor,” I said.

“Do we have to? I mean, he always seems so angry.” John’s eyes were filled with pleading.

Suddenly the ball came flying back out of the Pryor home. This was followed by the cracking voice of Dale Pryor, “Don’t need your charity, just take your ball and go away!” I never saw Dale and he wouldn’t answer his door, just one final parting word, “Can’t you just leave an old man alone?”

“We’re going Mr. Pryor,” I said as I laid a few bills on his porch.

“Good riddance!” Dale hollered from the dark recesses of his home.

Once we were home I looked at my son and told him, “Son, I don’t want you playing baseball there anymore.”

“But, Dad…” John began.

“Promise me, Son.” I was willing to wait for his obedience.

John looked down at the floor for a while and then said quietly, “I promise.”

Now we just needed to find something that John could do to earn the money to pay for Dale Pryor’s window.

Come and visit us sometime at Bear Creek, just down the road from the last place you’d expect, where the best news is found at Ralph’s Barber Shop and where the arrival of the future seems to have been postponed indefinitely.
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