Hello Everyone, Sheldon Bass here,
Below are some of my short stories, written for a weekly writing challenge when I first began writing. The Faith Writer’s challenge really helped me to hone my craft. Here’s a link to that site for those who may like to join, or simply hope to find many fine Christian articles for free. Faith Writers
If you enjoy good stories as much as I do, I think these will keep you thinking and entertained at the same time. Some, I hope, will challenge you to grow. I write in many genres, but can you guess my favorite genre by reading through these? From time to time I’ll be adding more stories, both fiction and non fiction, so check back to this page every so often. Let’s start with Non Fiction. Scroll down for Fiction ☺.
Of Perks and Pains
Moon Hee’s sweet, innocent face peered up from under her conical Asian hat. No older than sixteen, the young Korean’s poverty stricken parents were offering up their daughter’s virtue for a measly ten dollars. It would feed the family of five for a month. They were counting on this soldier’s eighteen year-old hormones, as well as my wealthy American heritage. Moon’s beautiful smile is etched into my memory, though her stick-thin form was shrouded by over-sized rags. I left with an empty wallet, but the virgin’s virtue remained intact.
Our Army base, Camp Casey abutted the town of Dongducheon where the poorest girls were sold into sexual slavery, usually by age 16, sometimes 15. Rice farmers would parlay one or two daughters into funds to sustain the remainder of the family. Many young lives ended in suicide. Many more prostitutes died during back-room abortions or carbon monoxide poisoning from poorly vented ondol heaters.
Clothing, dingy from muddy river water, hung behind every building. The public toilet was a hole in a dock extending over a sludge-filled river. Twenty feet downstream, I stood watching the townspeople scrubbing laundry on the river-rocks and swimming. Imagine my shock when I heard a splash in the water, then looked up to see a woman on the dock with bared buttocks squatting over the hole. A common sight was someone squatted down on the side of the road with their pants around their ankles, relieving themselves.
Letters from home detailing problems back in what we called the “real world”, suddenly sounded like heaven.
Washing machine broke down. Mom has to use the public laundry-mat for a whole 2 weeks. The corner dry cleaners closed down. Dad couldn’t get his suit cleaned in time for Brenda’s graduation party. The church had to purchase new pews with softer cushions—people were complaining about the old ones. Brother Tim’s having trouble getting his Monte Carlo to pass vehicle inspection. The old TV in the den finally went kapoot—only have one color TV to watch now.
Eighteen months in Korea taught me how relative a person’s idea of being poor really is. As of 2013, the poverty threshold in the United States was $22,550 per year for a household of four. In many countries, a mere $1000.00 per capita marks you as middle class. In third world countries, if a body has a roof over their head, eats twice a day and owns a pair of shoes, they are considered rich. Clean drinking water is a scarce commodity in many areas.
Simply put, many of us living in first world countries don’t know how blessed we are until witnessing true poverty first hand. Complaining about our real world problems would be scoffed at, as the whining of spoiled brats by the poor folks in Korea and many other countries.
When I returned state-side my folks were just packing up for the mission field in Zimbabwe Africa. Had I not recently arrived, kissing American soil, I might have gone with them.
Nine years of service offered my parents the same kind of enlightenment I’d received from my Korean experience. The Shona tribe are a people stalwart in courage and determination. Yet many are battered down by poverty, resulting in rampant disease, which stems mainly from a lack of nutrition and contaminated water. But poor hygiene awareness also plays a large role. Then there’s the sparse availability of medicines and doctors.
Still today, I sometimes get caught up in an attitude of entitlement. Really though, is choosing which steak house to dine at such a daunting task? Oh the stress of which investment I should make! When we complain about our high taxes, perhaps we should move to Korea? I get pretty bent out of shape when the Word program on my laptop is not responding correctly. And I recall moaning over the fact that I could only afford the $800.00 model. Yet, that’s more than a year’s income for many individuals!
There’s always someone who’d gladly trade problems with us. Remember Moses leading the Israelites through the wilderness? God sent manna from heaven and quail to eat and water from a rock. What was wrong with those people? Constantly grumbling, moaning and complaining? Shame on…
What’s that Lord?
No, I’m no better. In fact I’m worse. Forgive me Lord. Thank you that I was born in such a privileged country. And for blessing us so richly. You are Jehovah Jireh, our constant and faithful provider.
Calloused Knees Needed
Blood flows and wounds fester as fierce hostilities erupt again, continuing the war of the ages. Both sides scrutinize the best tactics and battle strategies and employ the most effective weapons of their arsenals. Currently under personal assault, I’m calling in the equivalent of the finest specialized forces available.
Unlike other conflicts, we already know who the clear and certain victor of this war shall be. Yet the enemy refuses to submit. Reminiscent of the U.S. civil war, pockets of resistance are popping up to wreak misery and death, even after the outcome has been proclaimed.
This continued fighting is not to determine who shall emerge triumphant. Even the opposition knows that Christ shall win. It has to do with which side you and I will be standing on when the angels blow that final trumpet note. These battles are being waged for souls—a true life and death struggle.
I suppose I should feel flattered that the devil considers what I’m about to do detrimental to his cause. As evidenced by a full-scale assault against me—surrounded by an onslaught of attacks and difficulties. However, it’s not me doing it, but Christ in me, who deploys us on His behalf. I’m merely a private in the Lord’s army.
Is it my upcoming publication that the enemy fears? Will my witnessing help recruit the next Billy Graham? Is it simply my soul he’s after? Who knows? Maybe it’s the scriptures I hope to expound to my beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord.
The focused battering began eight days ago, with five separate health issues converging on this weak temple of flesh—creating a convolution of pain. Meanwhile, the devil plotted to rage against me through loved-ones, speaking the precise words that would penetrate like an icepick to the liver. Finances were next; unexpected expenses, theft of valuable equipment, possessions breaking, and finally the theft of my wallet. I ache all over. Temptations too, have intensified. Yet, even all this was not enough. My increased stress-levels and my wife’s difficulties combined to create friction in our marriage. Attacks are coming from all sides and every angle.
The forces I’m utilizing are arrayed against the battalions of wickedness. In effectiveness, they could be compared to the Rangers, S.E.A.L. teams and Green Beret. Except, our warriors for this battle are not stalwart of limb, or armed with machine guns and grenades. Many are stoop-backed, white haired senior citizens of God’s family, suited up in the garment of praise, as on wrinkled knees they pour out our petitions to God. And yes, Jesus Himself is our true champion, who’s already defeated our worst enemy at the tomb. Death could not hold Him.
However, I’m depending on my siblings in Christ to pray with me and for me. I need spiritual protection and strength to stand firm, and to keep producing the fruit that brings glory to God. We know the devil’s end game—what he will try, and it is requisite for us to remain steadfast through those ploys to the very end. Our spiritual weapons are mighty through God, to the pulling down of the enemy’s bastions.
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2nd Corinthians 10:4 NIV)
The prayers of the righteous are potent and effective, like nuclear bombs against the stanchions of darkness. Push that button.
“…The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16b NLT)
As Christians we’ve been called to make disciples for Jesus. And to build-up our siblings in Christ. And ultimately, to shine the light of God’s glory in this dark world, bringing the utmost honor to Him. That’s what our side is fighting to do. But we all need each other’s prayers. Especially when we’re singled out for assault.
I seek prayer for God’s work to go forth successfully through me. As well as through you. And prayer that I will successfully do whatever it is the devil is so afraid I will accomplish. In faith, we praise God in advance for the victory. Soon, Christ is coming in all His power and brilliant glory to entirely subjugate all opposition. Until then, our faith and our prayers are vital for bringing many souls over to the winning side and keeping them here until the cessation of this conflict.
We are our brother’s keeper, to the final blow.
Acres of Agony
He stood staring at his palms. Plow handles grated into raw skin where the blisters split. Heat waves shimmered, radiating up from the soil, while the merciless Oklahoma sun blasted down.
Lifting his gaze from the clods, Brian peered out over the fields yet to be tilled, which stretched on for many acres. He dabbed at his eyes with a red rag to absorb the stinging sweat, and arched an aching back, rubbing the lumbar muscles. Long brown locks clung to his neck and face, as he wearily shook his head back and forth at the prospect of completing such a monolithic task. Brian was accustomed to the high, humid temperatures of Florida, where he’d grown to manhood. But the hard, menial labor was quite new.
Recently discharged from the U.S. Army, he’d tucked those four years of experience under his belt and headed west from the sunshine state in search of big money in the oilfields near Woodruff OK. The farm was temporary, until he could secure a position on a drilling rig. Yet, God had a purpose for this short-term arrangement. A few life-lessons.
Bill McGinnis had hired five hands to help with the plowing. Brian however, was the only one left. The others had all secured highly coveted jobs. Crazy money.
“Why couldn’t I have gotten one of those oilfield jobs Lord? Four positions available—I had to be the one left out.”
With lips squeezed together and scrunched up towards a bulbous nose, his face puckered up, as a pang of self-pity soured his demeanor. The crease between dark, bushy eyebrows deepened.
Sweat was slowly creeping down his light blue tee-shirt, darkening all but a short portion of the bottom edge. It was nearly two in the afternoon and he’d been working since sunup. Arms ached and hands stung. Legs too, were sore from the constant plodding forward, pushing the plow. And Brian felt this day would never end. But he kept going.
As he broke open the earth to receive this season’s seed he began to sing—something he often did to soothe his own heart. It had a way of chasing away thoughts that threatened to color his mind with shades of bitterness.
“There shall be showers of blessings, sent from the Savior above.”
After three verses, the new farm-hand felt a little better.
“Lord, I know I’m supposed to learn something from this. So, I’m going to trust you know what’s best. But I don’t think I’m cut out to be a farmer.”
Continuing on, he sang almost every hymn he could remember. And before realizing it, the job was finally completed. It turned out to be one of the longest days of his life.
Parking the plow in the barn, he stepped to a water trough and plunged his stinging hands into cool water. “Ooh that’s nice.” Then he bent over to splash his face. When he stood erect again, a smiling Mr. McGinnis was standing next to him with an outstretched hand, proffering an envelope.
“You’ve done the work of five men today. Good job.”
The farmer turned and strode back towards the main house.
Gingerly, Brian unsealed his check, expecting the agreed amount. But it was five times that. His face went soft and all the muscles in his body relaxed. On the horizon the sun and clouds were painting a spectacular picture in the sky with reds, yellow, blue and white. Even Florida’s sunsets were never so gorgeous. The sensations creeping through his heart and mind were something new to Brian. The satisfaction of a job well done. He felt good. He’d accomplished something he never thought he’d be able to complete.
“Thank you Lord, for giving me the strength for this day.”
The sound of a pick-up truck motoring into the drive broke his distant stare. A tall man in a Stetson hat and cowboy boots stepped out, taking long strides toward him.
“Yes sir, I’m Brian.”
“I’m with Honeymon Drilling out of Oklahoma City. We’re a man shy on the Wellman rig. You still wantin a job?”
The money he’d made from the farm would carry Brian until his first monthly check, which would be much bigger. This was the position he’d hoped for—prayed for. The end of this very long and arduous day, begun with such dread, had culminated into hopes realized.
Brian was certain he heard the Lord say, “Well done.”
(Authors Note: Based on a true personal experience, which taught me some truths concerning the rewards of hard work and trusting God. And also about the illusion of physical limitations. Names changed)
Charging At Life
He’d slayed the beast. It’s a story best understood by scrutinizing the participant’s eyes. Hailed a hero, Philippe’s eyes flashed the pride throbbing in his chest. A roar went up from the crowd of spectators. Beautiful Senioritis tossed bouquets of flowers to their champion.
Red fury was all anyone had noticed from the bovine’s bulging, ocular orbs, contrasted by the rolling whites, as he churned the dirt into clouds of dust with iron-like hooves. Yet, upon more astute observation, one would see the glistening pangs of pain written therein. And the fearful quaking of the bulls limbs.
The bull was first teased, tormented. Tightly tied around the top of its scrotum was the obligatory rawhide thong. Used to provoke pain, hence anger. Diablo was the moniker given to the beast, whose lot in life was to entertain—and die.
But who could know the longing that emanated from the heart of this animal? A yearning for freedom and peace. Nobody saw that. Only what they wanted to see. A devilish and dangerous brute. Further, if memories were perceived in the eyes, one might observe that while in the throes of death, Diablo’s mind went back to his joyous youth, suckling at the warm, welcoming teats of his mother.
As the large, horned bull first joined him in the arena, Philippe’s black eyes widened and moved in quick jerks, betraying his nervous apprehension. The adrenaline coursing his veins sharpened his perceptions, his body’s reaction time and wit. With each pounding heartbeat the matador’s temples pulsated. Close attention on those deep ebon eyes would soon confirm a sudden, calming fortitude. A confidence acquired by eight years of diligent practice.
When the eyes of beast and man first locked upon the other, the challenge had been made. Yellow hues of pain in Diablo’s eyes instantly transformed to fiery red rage, focused directly into the windows of Philippe’s soul. Man. The propagator of his agony.
With each ferocious charge, Diablo’s eyes became more frustrated and bewildered. As the rampaging monster began to slow, his strength diminishing, Philippe, waved his red cape and twirled in a graceful dance, then thrust the first sword into Diablo’s right flank. On the next and more labored pass, another sword deeply pierced the left side, puncturing one of the bull’s massive lungs. Yet determination still blazed in the victims eyes. He desperately wanted to plunge a horn through his antagonist.
In Diablo’s last approach, slow and deliberate, he tried to take the nimble footed matador straight on. But Philippe was too quick and precise, as again that distracting red cape concealed the true position of the bull fighter. The merciless death blow came. A direct thrust into the heart.
A thousand pounds of beef came crashing down, skidding to a stop, while burrowing a trench in the dust, five feet past the killer. With a snort, Diablo’s last gasping breath blasted up a cloud of dirt. The fire in his eyes had been extinguished. And the bull fighter saw the blank stare of death.
Philippe had eagerly anticipated this moment of triumph. He’d won the challenge against monolithic odds and a dozen matadors. The crown was his. Yet, while strutting around receiving laud from the audience, an unexpected realization, born of studying the eyes of his opponent was eking its way through his mind. Those eyes. They held something much deeper than the expected bloodlust. There’d been a helplessness and fear peering through Diablo’s pupils.
The champion’s eyes suddenly drooped from the outside corners in sadness. A tidal-wave of regret coursed over his face. The look he saw in the dying eyes of Diablo seemed to poignantly state the question. Why?
Philippe mentally reviewed the past eight years of his life. All that time and effort. This was the pay-off. But it wasn’t at all what he expected.
Like a bull being coaxed into charging, by a red flag, Philippe had charged ahead in pursuit of glory, without thinking it through. In the greater scheme of life, this was futile, empty of honor.
The death of his grand opponent left a void. He’d lost something of himself. The victor’s head hung low, and shoulders sagged as he plodded out of the arena, never to return. The crimson cape drug in the dirt behind him, his watery eyes filling. He went home a little wiser.
“The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)
Chilling the Bully
Blazing sun-rays glistened off a pulsating vein in his neck, as a crimson hue rolled over Marty’s face. His red-headed fury was about to be stoked again. Betty could always tell by that little muscle on the side of his jaw that flexed when he was angry.
She tried calming her husband, who sprawled on an over-sized towel on the hot sand of Coquina Key Beach. An apparent beach-bum thirty years junior to Marty’s fifty-five was claiming the patch of sand they occupied as his own. Several carefully selected insults were salted throughout his pompous acclamations.
“You should take your ugly woman somewhere else. This beach ain’t for fat old people anyway pops. You guys are messing up the scenery.”
Betty knew her husband’s hot temper and his ability to handle himself well should the altercation turn physical. She rubbed his forearm.
“Honey, don’t pay any attention to that guy. Just relax. We’re here to enjoy our vacation, and we’re not going to let anyone ruin it—right?”
Marty’s decision was visible, as tension ebbed from his body and he began to calm a bit. But the offender continued to irritate.
“Yeah, listen to yer ol-lady dude. This is my spot.”
Though heavily muscled, the agitator jumped reactively when Betty’s husband leapt to his feet. Snatching up the towel, Marty shook out the sand.
“Come on Betty, we’ll find another spot.”
With an exaggerated gallantry he tossed an arm around his wife, and they strode down the beach together. She carried the towel and he swung a large bucket filled with sea-shells they’d collected.
The soft, warm sea-breeze rippled the frilly skirt of Betty’s one-piece swim-suit dappled with colorful spring blooms. She turned her head up with a glowing smile to gaze at her husband’s face while they moved as one. She was proud of how he’d been overcoming his quick temper lately. It warmed her heart to know the extra effort was for her. Their love for each other had matured. And Betty’s thoughts were assuring.
Twenty-three years of marriage—we rarely disagree. So thankful he began attending church regularly. Reading his bible and praying every morning has really made a difference.
It seemed they were both having similar thoughts again. Marty spoke.
“Notice how chill I was? Jesus’ way really is best. So wise.”
Betty simply nodded, smiling. He pointed to a large vacant area on the sand close to two palm trees, where they’d have the option of either shade or sunshine. She bobbed her head in approval.
Ten minutes later they were comfortably snuggled-up on the towel and digging their toes in the warm sand. A voice behind them sounded. It was the same blonde headed beach bum as before.
“Looks like you just don’t get it pops. You’re not welcome on this beach.”
Marty let out an exasperated sigh and shook his head incredulously, searching for the right response. But before he could say anything the bully used a foot to swoop a pile of sand in both their faces. Marty caught the worst of it with both eyes full of the crystal grains. Afraid of what Marty would do once he could see again, Betty stood between the jerk and her husband.
“Chill out!” She chided.
It was a protective reaction. Scooping up the bucket of shells she swung it fast and hard. The trouble-maker was set to give another snide comment when the edge of the heavy bucket caught him square on the chin. He folded up like an accordion on the beach, unconscious.
Dropping the bucket, Betty gasped and covered her mouth with both hands in disbelief at what she’d just done.
After flushing his eyes with their drinking water, Marty moved to the fallen troubler and lifted his head, gently tapping his face to revive him. When his eyelids fluttered open, Marty offered him a drink of water, which he accepted. Now, the formerly verbose fellow was speechless and motionless—seated on the sand. Without a word, Marty handed him a small Christian tract.
Packing up their stuff, Betty patted the man on the head like he was a little toddler, and left him with a parting thought.
“God would not be pleased with the way you’ve been acting young man.”
Fifteen minutes later as the happily married couple were driving off, they saw the same beach bum standing at the edge of the parking lot. He appeared much more relaxed than before, and he was waving good-bye.
(Author’s Note: Open to interpretation)
Tied Up in the Wood Shop
It could’ve happened to anyone. That’s what I told myself. I had to believe this, or else I’d have been a complete idiot for using the table saw while clad in a suit and tie. It was only going to take forty-five seconds to make that final cut and the finishing pieces would’ve been ready for assembly. Then after giving my presentation at the office, I could have put the entire china cabinet together that afternoon, and had it stained and completed by the next day, in time for Darlene and my twentieth wedding anniversary.
“You might have to brush a little saw-dust off your shoes is all.” That’s what I’d told myself.
“Sweetheart, you’re really gonna be surprised.”
Now I was stuck. The fancy new silk tie she’d given me was wrapped around the saw-blade.
“The Lord must look out for dummies; another second and your face would have been hamburger.”
All I did was bend down to check the angle of the cut, forgetting about that decorative cloth tied around my throat. The circular blade grabbed my tie and commenced coiling it around that confounding contraption while pulling my head into it.
“Too bad your brain is not as quick as your hands were flipping off that switch.”
I had to get loose, but it was wrapped too tight, with my eyes bugging out of my head from that thing choking me.
“The one time you don’t have your pocket-knife with you…”
Even if I did have it and cut the tie off: what explanation could be given to Darlene? I had my cell phone, but I couldn’t bear the thought of calling for help. I had to get loose on my own or the whole surprise would be blown, and I’d never hear the end of this if anyone were to find out I’d done such a stupid thing.
“Oh Lord, please don’t let Darlene’s brother find out about this. He razzes me enough about my fishing tactics.”
Three minutes seemed like an eternity with the table-saw incarcerating me by my tie.
Here came my friend and confidant Smokey, my loyal dog. I could trust him not to tell anyone he’d seen me in this predicament. But even he cocked his head, looking at me like I was a few marbles shy.
“Come here boy. Jump up here and chew through this tie.”
It seemed Smokey wasn’t in the mood to help me out of this mess. He did however; provide moral support with that big tail wagging away and a smile on his face. Dogs are great friends. He doesn’t care how dumb his master can be at times. It’s that unconditional love thing.
“Why are you ruminating on such things while you’re in an importunate state of emergency?” I was chewing myself out, but getting no closer to an escape plan.
I couldn’t reach any tools to use… Only one option remained.
“Dear Lord Jesus, please forgive me for being so thoughtless. And I know it’s because of my pride that I don’t call for help. Poltroon that I am; I’m just too embarrassed to be seen like this. Please Lord, show me what to do.”
Grabbing hold of that inconveniencing piece of silk with both hands, I pulled hard, attempting to either tear it loose or get it to unwind. I managed to get one wrap undone; giving me another inch and a half of the tie to work with. It was just enough to pull it across the edge of the saw blade, and start working that torturous adornment back and forth a few centimeters up and down the edge of the blade. My face was so close to the action it was difficult to focus my vision on it. The tie finally capitulated its tensile strength and began to tear, causing my stress to abate just a smidgen.
“Freedom!” It tore in half, leaving me with a very short, ragged, expensive tie. Ripping the blasted thing from my neck; it felt good to have the blood circulating to my brain again. Lord knows, I need all the blood I can get up there; I can’t afford the unnecessary loss of any critical cogitating cells.
In the middle of my presentation on “power-tool safety”, I looked down to notice I’d forgotten to wipe the sawdust from my shoes. Yet; call it a miracle; I somehow retained my position as head of our Safety Committee. The moral: practice what you preach.