Friday, February 6, 2015

Children's Poem: "Caterpillar"

If you're like me, your inner child still remembers watching a fuzzy caterpillar as it undulated across something.

They seemed to always be in such a hurry to get somewhere.

I watched in awe, fascinated by their perfect coordination, in spite of having so many tiny legs and feet.

They never seemed to get theirs tangled up like I did ...


by CJ Heck

Fuzzy caterpillar
with your million-jillion feet,
how do you know which foot should go,
as you're walking on that leaf?

You make it look so easy,
right-left-right, the way you do,
sometimes MY feet get tangled up
and I have only TWO ...

("Caterpillar" from the book, "Me Too Preschool Poetry", by CJ Heck)

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“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Poem: When I Finally Close My Eyes


To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk feeling pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken.  The greatest misuse of a life is to die never having risked at all.

When I Finally Close My Eyes

by CJ Heck

When I close my eyes
for the last time,
I want to have lived,
really lived.

I want to know I've tasted
the smorgasbord of life,
having relished the good
and spat the bad back out,
knowing at least I tried it.

When I'm done here,
I don't want to wonder
whether someone caught
the kiss I threw,
I will know.

I don't want to leave this life
with my heart as empty
as my pockets have always been.

I want to know, without a doubt,
I've left something of me behind,
something that's good, not regret
for never making a difference.

When I close my eyes
for the very last time,
I would like someone
to remember
... I was here.

[from the book, "Anatomy of a Poet"]

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"In the end, these things matter most:  How well did you love?  How fully did you live?  How deeply did you let go?" ~ Siddartha Gautama

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Monday, February 2, 2015

Flash Fiction: "Waiting for a Greyhound"

“Men who flatter women do not know them; men who abuse women know them even less.” 
–Constance de Theis

by CJ Heck

In the early morning hours of a Baltimore Monday, I saw you -- just another nameless lady sitting quietly by herself on a dirty bench in the Greyhound Bus Station.

Like me, you were waiting for a bus; unlike me, you wore a long red coat on a warm spring day and your hat was pulled down to hide a swelling monument of love.

The matching handbag, you gripped two-fisted, leaving only the sleeves of your coat to wipe the sadness from your eyes.  I am so sorry.  I couldn't help but see ...

My God, how could so much misery share that old dingy bench?

What was it in your world that hurt you?  What, (or who), made you feel so beaten down?  What could have happened to make you cram your whole life into a suitcase?

I'm thinking it must be a man and not a very nice one.  No one could ever blame you for leaving.  Maybe wasting minutes feels better here, crying silently and waiting for a Greyhound with your suitcase between your legs, instead of him.

It's merely speculation on my part, but I suppose yesterday's hopes and tomorrow's dreams all die just as easily in a one-way ticket to somewhere else -- and anywhere's a better place than where you were.

Greyhounds may be late, but they don't punch or yell.

(from the book, "Bits and Pieces from a Writer's Soul", by CJ Heck)

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“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Children's Poem: "To a Baby Firefly"

Firefly Nightlight
One of the many joys I remember from childhood was being outside on a hot summer night.

First we would wear ourselves out playing hide-and-seek in the dark.

Then, we would get a Ball jar with a lid from Mom so we could catch fireflies -- only back then, we called them lightning bugs.

They were such gentle little creatures and I was always awed, as I watched them light up my magical flashing nightlight.

I couldn't help but honor them with a poem.

To A Baby Firefly

by CJ Heck

Little baby firefly,
when your night is through,
does your mother tuck you in
and tell you she loves you?

Does she kiss your forehead
and say in morning's light ...
"Day-day little sleepyhead,
close your eyes, put out your light."

("To a Baby Firefly" from the book, "Barking Spiders 2 (sequel)", by CJ Heck)

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Lesson About Anger: "The Fence"

The Lesson from the Nails
There once was a little boy who had a very bad temper.
His father gave him a bag of nails and a hammer and walked him over to the fence in the side yard.

His father told him that every time he lost his temper from that day forward, he was to hammer a nail into the fence. 

The first day, the boy had driven thirty-seven nails into the fence. 

Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails he hammered daily gradually dwindled down. The boy had discovered it was much easier to hold his temper, than to drive nails into the fence.

Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull one nail out for every day he was able to hold his temper. 

The days passed and, finally, the young boy was able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and once again led him over to the fence. He said to the boy, “You have done well, my son, but look at all of the holes in the fence. This fence will never be the same again. 

I wanted you to learn this lesson, because it is the same way throughout life.  

If we put a knife into someone, even if we immediately pull it back out, it won’t matter how many times we say I’m sorry.  The wound will always be there.

It is the same when we say things in anger.  The words can never be taken back.  Although invisible, they also leave a scar, just like the scar on this fence. Always make sure you control your temper when you are tempted to say something you might regret later."

[Author Unknown]

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Monday, January 26, 2015

Children's Poem: "I Love Bugs"

Children Love Bugs!
Why are children so fascinated with bugs?

Is it because they see them as something amazing, something funny, or just something cute that's even smaller than they are?

Or could it be because they see bugs as little "friends" who are fun and, like them, just glad to be alive.

One summer day at my daughter's home, I glanced out the kitchen window into the backyard, trying to see my four grandchildren.

There must have been a dozen kids out there! They were all huddled around the slide on the old swing set, waving their arms around and cheering.

They were obviously having a great time with something and yet, my four-year-old grandson, also a part of said crowd, was crying.  I went out to see what was wrong.

I walked over, gave Colin a hug, and asked him what was wrong.  He sniffled, wiped his nose on my T-shirt and said, "We're having slug races, Gram, and Sammy, my slug, stopped racing. Sammy won't go AT ALL, even when I poke him!  (sniffle-sniffle)"

I went over to the slide, a METAL slide, mind you, and I could see right away what the problem was.  Sammy was so slow, he'd gotten himself stuck to the hot slide.

Without going into the morbid "why", I suggested that Colin should probably give Sammy a rest and we would find another slug to race with. While he ran off to start the search, I removed little Sammy's fried body from the slide.

Today, I want to share a bug poem, written for Colin -- from a child's point of view.

I Love Bugs 

by CJ Heck

I love teeny tiny ants
and itchy bitsy fleas,
spiders, big and little,
and grouchy grumble bees,

butterflies that flutter by,
and beetles when they run
from marching caterpillars.
I think bugs are fun!

Skeeters like to bite me,
but lightning bugs, they don’t,
and flies that get inside the house
could bite, but they won’t.

Silly racing centipedes
and slow and slimy slugs
are my very special favorites.
I love bugs.

("I Love Bugs" from the book, "Me Too Preschool Poetry", by CJ Heck)

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“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Friday, January 23, 2015

Children's Story: The Ice Cream Cone

The Ice Cream Cone
(Teaching Children About Divorce)

by CJ Heck

Millicent Cole was Jake's wife, Kali and Kristin's mother, and grandmother to Douglas, the eight-year-old son of her oldest daughter, Kali.

Kali was also the daughter who told everyone tonight at supper that she and her husband are getting a divorce.

It was news that rocked Millie's comfortable world for the second time that week.

Now, sitting in the front row on a wooden folding chair, Millie's eyes focused on what first rocked her world, the  rosewood coffin surrounded by flowers at the front of the room.

She was there to say a final goodbye to her beloved grandfather who passed away only two days before.  Already she missed him terribly.

Add that to the bomb Kali dropped tonight about the divorce and it was fair to say, Millicent Kathryn Cole was feeling very, very vulnerable, like free-falling from the sky without a parachute.

Her thoughts wandered to a summer long ago, when she was about Douglas's age. It was the summer she was given the most precious gift she had ever received.

The gift was so dear to her, and yet it hadn't come folded in soft tissue paper in a fancy cardboard box. It had not been wrapped in colorful paper, pretty ribbons, or bows, nor had it come with a store-bought greeting card. It had been such a simple, loving gift and it had come from Grampa ...

Millie had just turned eight when her best friend, Kylie, tearfully told her that her parents were getting a divorce. Her friend was miserable and Millie didn't know what to do, or say, to comfort her. She couldn't understand why Kylie's parents would get a divorce -- and Millie was about half mad at them for hurting Kylie that way.

Millie rode the school bus home in silence.

When the driver finally opened the bus door in front of her house, Grandpa was there waiting for her on the wooden bench. She was glad to see him. Maybe Grampa could help her understand how this awful thing could happen to her best friend.

Grampa gave Millie a big hug. "Hello, Millie-Me!" [That was Grampa's special nickname for her].

Millie told him she was sad. Then she told him about her talk with Kylie and now she felt so helpless. "Why would her parents do that and hurt Kylie? I don't understand." Millie said in a voice choked with tears.

Grampa got down on one knee and hugged her again. Then he suggested they walk down to the park. Grampa spoke in a gentle voice, "I think it's time for an ice cream cone."

After Grampa paid the vendor for their cones, they walked down the little winding path through the park, under the thick canopy of trees, past an old woman feeding pigeons, until at last they came to an empty bench.

After they sat for awhile, Grampa pointed to her cone and said, “You know, honey, falling in love and getting married are a lot like your ice cream cone. You got one scoop and took a lick. Well, it tasted so good, you asked for another scoop right on the tippity-top of that one."

Millie was too busy licking the little drips that were starting to run down the sides of her cone to say anything, so she just nodded her head.

After a few more minutes, Grampa pointed up to the sky. "Today sure is hot. Yep. There isn't a cloud in the sky. The sun’s shining down on you, and it’s shining down on your ice cream cone, too. It sure looks like you’re enjoying it. In spite of all the drips running down your fingers onto your hands, it must be pretty darn good."

Grampa paused, and then he said, "The faster your ice cream melts, the faster you’re licking to catch all of the drips."

Millie nodded again in frustration. It was true. The drips were coming much faster now. Her tongue was having trouble keeping up with them all around the cone.

Grampa saw Millie nod, so he went on. "Do you see those flies and gnats buzzing around? They’ve been watching you enjoy your cone. Understand, they want some of that great ice cream, too!

They’ve started dive-bombing from all sorts of different angles and grabbing little bites all for themselves. With the hand that isn’t holding your ice cream cone, I've been watching you swiping and swatting like crazy to keep the bugs away."

Now Millie giggled. Grampa was making the bugs sound like real people who wanted her to share her cone with them!

Grampa giggled, too, and then he continued. "Now, what if Old Blue was here?

Let's say that old hound dog is sound asleep in the shade over there. Suddenly, he wakes up and sees the drips you’re leaving on the sidewalk down there by your feet. He would probably lumber on over here and lap up a few of those drips. He might even like them so much he'd try and take a few bites right from the cone in your hand!"

Millie thought about the melting ice cream and all the bugs. "I'm sure glad Old Blue's not here, too, Grampa! There's not enough ice cream on this cone for all of us!" She said in a loud voice.

"Well, there you are, honey. You'd be swiping at the bugs with one hand, pushing Old Blue away with your elbows, and meanwhile, the sun would still be melting the ice cream faster than your tongue can lick to keep up with it."

The bugs were being so pesky now that Millie was getting angry. She got up from the bench and tried to run away from them, when all of a sudden --

"P L O P!“

Millie frowned. She looked down at the pile of mushy ice cream and the sugar cone that had landed upside-down on the ground between her feet.

Slowly and sadly, Millie walked back over to the bench and sat down beside Grampa.

She sighed, and after taking one last peek at her ice cream mess on the ground, she asked, “Grampa, why do bad things have to happen to good people?”

“Sweet girl, there is no particular reason.  Sometimes they just do.

You know, getting married can be just like your ice cream cone. It was exactly what you wanted, when you wanted it, and it was wonderful, too.  The love part truly is wonderful.

Sometimes, though, there are just too many inside and outside things that get in the way. Each of those things is taking big bites, little bites, pushing, pulling and shoving, until they've melted down all of the really good parts."

Millie thought about her grampa's words. Getting married sure sounded like a lot of work -- and a whole LOT of problems. Millie made up her mind. “Grampa, I don't EVER want to get married!”

“Millie-Me, that ice cream cone sure was good ... wasn't it?"

"It was the best, Grampa, but it's all gone now!"  Millie sniffled.  "And it was my fault."

"Yes, it finally dropped on the sidewalk, but we both know you worked real hard to keep it, and I'm proud of you. I hope you'll always remember, that while you had it, it was good -- it was really, really good. Wasn't having it worth all the work in trying to keep it?

It doesn't have to be anyone's fault.  Sometimes, what finally happened to your ice cream cone just happens, and in real life, that can happen with a couple's marriage.”

Millie nodded.  She finally understood.

She gave Grampa the biggest hug she could muster and he hugged her right back. "Yeah, Grampa. It was worth all the work. Thank you."

Grampa smiled and kissed the top of her head. "You're welcome. C'mon Millie-Me. Let's go home."

The organ music jolted her back to the present, but Millicent Cole smiled -- not a big smile, mind you, but a smile, just the same.

It was such a perfect memory, and I'll always treasure it. Oh Grampa, you will be so terribly missed ...

"Hi, Gram." Millicent was surprised right out of her daydream. She looked up to see Douglas's tear-stained face as he plopped down in the chair beside her.

"This is a double-dang, triple-dang BAD day, Gram. First Great-Grampa died, then Mom and Dad said they are getting a divorce. Why, Gram?  I don't understand why they are doing that."

"I know, Dougie, I know." Millie said sadly, as she wiped at a tear escaping down his cheek. Then she hugged him. "Let's go see your mother. I think it's time you and I walked down to the park for an ice cream cone."

Then, after wiping a misbehaving tear of her own with a tissue, Millie added, "Dougie, let's go make a memory ..."

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Short Story: Ol' Lady Chensky

Ol' Lady Chensky

 By Ronald Nitke


I stopped the car. I couldn’t just leave her lying there on the side of the highway.

My new six-dollar lure would not be tested this evening, and the walleye population of Pike Lake would be safe another day.

Several goats protectively surrounded her, as if they were mourning. It had to be her. I knew she lived near here and heard she kept goats, but had never actually seen them.

As I approached, her tribe hesitantly allowed me through their circle. Her left arm was clutched tightly to her chest. I touched her lifeless arm; the skin was cool. Her pitchfork was by her side. A peaceful look was on her face, and maybe even a little air of satisfaction.

Most, including me, didn’t even know her first name. Everyone just called her “Ol’ Lady Chensky.”

I drove back into Coolidge Springs and called the sheriff. Luckily, he was still at his office in Parkfield, only five miles away.

“Is that the old lady that I sometimes see walking along the highway?” he asked.

“Yes, that’s the one. Her name is Chensky.”

“I’m just closing up the office,” he said. “I can meet you there in about ten minutes. I’ll need to fill out a report.”

When she was alive, she looked like she was a hundred and ten, maybe five feet tall if she straightened her stooping shoulders, worn and weathered, like a crusty old seaman. No one knew for sure, but she was probably closer to seventy-five, maybe eighty.

As near as any of the locals could recall, she had been on that forty acres for what seemed like forever. She would walk the half mile into town every week. She didn’t drive, walked everywhere… and always came into my store after stopping at the post office.

The neighborhood children were frightened of her, but they would mock her and giggle from a safe distance. Her dark eyes would burn holes through them, but they didn’t care. They had the strength of numbers as their security. She would soon turn away and silently go about her business.

John Rivers warned me about her when I bought this little general store from him fourteen years ago. She even scared me a little the first time she came in, but I soon grew to find her a bit amusing.

She had yellowish-gray hair which was mostly covered by a shabby scarf tied under her chin… a “babushka” she called it. She was never seen without it.

She would search through the shelves and find damaged and dented cans of beans, or fruit, or something with a torn label. Sometimes, I even put one or two cans where she would easily find them, knowing that her tattered and faded apron would transport her trophies up to the check-out counter.

It was a little game we played that she always won. She reminded me of my own grandmother. Even with her raspy broken English, she negotiated like a Philadelphia lawyer.

“Mr. Miller,” she would say, (she always called me Mr. Miller, and I always called her Mrs. Chensky). “You know you can’t sell ‘dees, you have to tro’ dem out.”

If she had teeth, she didn’t bring them into town with her. She would miserly pluck a few cents from her leather coin purse as an offering. That worn purse looked like it was as old as she was. I saw the corner of a dollar bill sticking out once… she deftly pushed it back to safety.

One day, she found a leaking five-pound bag of flour. I taped it up and just let her have it. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. Mrs. Chensky nodded what could have been perceived as a thank you, but she promptly strode from my store, certain she was doing me a favor.

Some of the folks around town suspected her husband may have left behind a little money when he supposedly died from the pox thirty years ago… or maybe it was an accident of some kind. The sum compounded itself as it passed from person to person and barstool to barstool.

The word was, the Chenskys had come up from Chicago in the early thirties. He had some kind of business dealings down there, but it was never exactly clear what kind of commerce was involved. They bought forty acres just outside of town, paid cash, and kept pretty much to themselves.

He was reportedly buried up there on a hillside, but no one knew for sure. There was no stone for him in the town cemetery.

One or two of the townsfolk thought they heard someone say they had seen a big black sedan with whitewall tires going into their property about the time he disappeared. One or two other rumors had him simply sneaking off to town one day for tobacco, and he just caught the southbound train never to be heard from again.

In the summer, Mrs. Chensky could sometimes be seen walking along the highway, toting home some treasure she had found in the dump. Or after the town crew would mow the tall roadside grass, she could be spotted with a pitchfork gathering up the freshly cut fodder for her goats. She would carry the hay up her dirt path to a small barn near her shack… forkful by forkful.

The Goats
There were some accounts that she had been seen petting and coddling, or even kissing her goats when the naked winter trees allowed some sight into her property. Some suspected the goats even frequented her house.

No one ever attempted to approach her near the path or her shack. No family. No friends. No visitors. The fear of the unknown outweighed the curiosity.

There was a son, Ludwik, believed to be in Chicago now, about four-hundred miles to the south. He didn’t stick around our sleepy little village long… must have been fifteen or sixteen when he left.

I heard he started calling himself Louis, and did some odd jobs around town to earn a little money. Most figured he probably caught the next train or bus out of town as soon as he could save the fare. No one claimed to know for sure.

Mrs. Chensky never mentioned him, or any other family. Louis never returned to Coolidge Springs, the locally proclaimed vacationland of the north. Not much activity here… not enough to hold the young man’s attention.

The sheriff was there in ten minutes, like he said he would be. Tom Peltz had been the county sheriff here for almost twenty years. He removed his hat and admitted he’d never actually spoken to her, and didn’t know much about her, other than what he heard. He didn’t get out that way much. We both knew she never bothered anybody.

He had called the county nurse before leaving his office.  She drove out and said, “Yup, she’s dead.”

Carol was all business. She would call the funeral home and they could send out the hearse. No need for an ambulance -- too late for that. She signed something and her work was done.

Since I probably knew Mrs. Chensky as well as anyone, the sheriff asked me to go with him up to her home as a witness.

We herded the goats up the trail, through the aspens and alder overgrowth, into the rickety old barn. Summer vegetation kept the house and barn totally secluded from the highway.

Ol' Lady Chensky's House
It was just after eight p.m., but the setting sun was still good for another hour of light. Plenty of time left for a quick check of the place.

The well was out the front door twenty paces to the left. The outhouse was twenty paces to the right… its silhouette in the setting summer sun. Her garden was halfway between. It was safely protected from her goats and other predators by a rusty chicken wire fence.

We ventured into her tiny four-room farmhouse. No electricity. The drafty shack offered little protection from the mosquitoes that were beginning to mount their evening assault. It was apparent that the goats freely roamed the house.

The pine floor boards creaked over the dugout root cellar below. I checked out the murky cellar… nothing more than cobwebs and a few mason jars of sauerkraut and raspberry preserves. Tempting, but I left them down there.

There was an old steamer trunk at the foot of her wrought iron bed. Neither the unpainted front door, nor the trunk, was locked. In the trunk were some of her winter clothes, a faded white wedding dress, a pair of brown lace-up baby shoes, and one pair of knitted baby booties… pink.

Tom found a tin box under the old clothes. It looked like, at one time, it may have been a bright red. It too, wasn’t locked.

Being aware of all the stories, the sheriff smiled at the thought of what he might find. He motioned me over. “Let’s have a look,” he said. “This should put to rest all those rumors and unsolved mysteries.”

Inside were two gold wedding bands, along with some old photographs that were neatly bound with string. The largest was an eight by ten wedding portrait of a handsome young couple taken at Lakeside Studio, Chicago, dated 1914. It looked like the bride was wearing the same wedding dress that was in the trunk.

Another picture, a souvenir postal, taken in the same Chicago studio: same couple, but in it, the young lady is holding a baby. A boy about three, or four years old, is standing in front of the adults. That must be Ludwik. The four of them looked like a proud little family…very well dressed. She was much shorter than the man.

There were a few other pictures that looked even older of other unidentified people; her parents, or other relatives, perhaps. Other than the deed to the forty acres, there were no insurance papers or any other valuables. No birth certificates. No death certificates. Along with the neatly bundled pictures was a folded hand written paper. The language was simple; humble… the penmanship was shaky but stylish.
“To whom it may concern:

     “When I die, I want the portrait of my husband, Joseph, to be buried with me. That is most important.
     I want the casket to be a simple pine box. There is some money in a jar in the woodbox. Take that and the rings for the expenses.
     Please give my goats to Charley Miller for his big yard on the edge of town. They are Bessie, Martha, Francis, Hank, and Little Billy, he’s the youngest. They all know who they are.
     All my other belongings and land can go to Ludwik to do with as he wishes. He is in Chicago. He has a telephone, but I don’t know the number. I think the operator can get it for you. Call him collect.” 
Signed - Anna Chensky: dated May 2, 1964"
She had written that only a few months ago. The sheriff had to move some kindling wood, but the jar was where she said it would be. Inside were thirty-eight well-traveled one dollar bills.

They looked like they may have been there a long time… hardly the much ballyhooed fortune whispered over clotheslines and between Saturday-night barstools.

Tom counted another two dollars and forty-one cents in her coin purse. Most people, including me, Charley Miller, never believed any of those so-called treasure stories of mysterious money brought up from Chicago.

The requested portrait of Joseph was hanging above the bed. The large oval frame was elegant. I would have been proud to own it myself.

The sheriff had done his duty and made the collect call to Ludwik that evening. Tom was reminded that he was "Louis" now, and although he wouldn’t be able make it, asked that the sheriff let him know if there was anything he needed to do. He wasn’t interested in the old pictures, or any other stuff. Tom left me with that and called it a day.

It seemed a simple request. “We’ve done it before,” boasted Bruce Carlton from the funeral home. “Sometimes people are buried with some of their jewelry, a Bible, favorite books, even a deck of cards, so the portrait of her husband is easy. A lot of the ladies like to be buried with their rosary. One time this old guy wanted a map of the stars… I suppose so he could find his way around up there.”

Father Francis came and said a few kind and inspirational words, but besides Bruce and his wife, there were only me and Mrs. Miller there to hear them.

In accordance with her last requests of simplicity, she was given a pauper’s funeral. Her tiny stature allowed for her to be placed in the smallest of the adult pine coffins.

Bruce carefully placed the portrait of Joseph in the coffin with Mrs. Chensky, but he couldn’t close the lid. The portrait with that elegant frame was too large for the tiny coffin.

He dialed the operator and made a person-to-person collect call to Louis. He should decide what to do about this dilemma.

It didn’t matter to Louis. He suggested they just take the picture out of the frame. What difference could it make? He was very busy.

Bruce looked at me and said, “Charley, you want this frame?”

He knew I liked the frame, and that was okay, but I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the goats.

The paper backing on the frame was old and brittle and had loosened over the years. Bruce cautiously began to separate the backing from the frame and uncovered the corner of a fifty dollar bill. Not just any fifty dollar bill… but a gold certificate from 1913.

He nearly choked when he found more neatly pressed bills: fives, tens, twenties and more fifties, dating as far back as the 1880’s. Most were common silver certificates, but there were more gold certificates, some red seals, and a two-dollar Union Note from 1862.

I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing, after her unabashed negotiations with me all these years. [Two cents for a can of beans… a penny for can of peaches.]

I suggested to Bruce that we call an old army buddy of mine. He was a numismatist in Milwaukee. We sorted through the treasure and gave my friend a detailed inventory of the find. He speculated that the bills could have a collector’s value of about forty thousand dollars.

Bruce could only shake his head, “Don’t that beat all? That old lady lived like a beggar and thought she was going to take it all with her when she died. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

I told Bruce we should probably call Louis again.

It must have rung a dozen times. The operator finally cut in, “I’m sorry sir, your party is not accepting the charges.”

[Author’s note: This is a fictionalized story, based on true events. Anna, in fact, lived alone with her goats just outside a small town, and she did the gathering and bargaining as described. She also intended to take the portrait of her husband stuffed with the bills with her when she died. The value stated is believed to be reasonably accurate. Names and places were changed to protect privacy.]

Ronald Nitke

About The Author

Ronald Nitke has a B.S. in business administration, and has worked many years in corporate and forensic accounting. After serving aboard the USS Sanctuary 1967-1969, he was a logger in Northern Wisconsin.

In addition to writing several short stories, he is completing the final edits for a fact-based novel involving his forensic experiences, titled, "Hidden Assets". 

He and his wife Charlene, by way of Arizona, California, and Alabama are currently living in Appleton, Wisconsin, and restoring an 1880’s farmhouse. They share their space with a Golden Retriever, Lady Grace, and a Shih Tzu, Dixie Belle.

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Other Stories by Ron:

The Courier
The Waiting Room and The Judge

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck