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)






More Poems from the Book






“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


COOLIDGE SPRINGS, NO. WISC. - 1964

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.

Email Ron

Ron on Facebook


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


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Children's Poem: "Teaching Grampa to Selfie"

Teaching Grampa to Selfie
This week, I made a comment on my Facebook page and mentioned that I've seen a few selfies where you can see right up someone's nostrils, including their creepy nose hairs.

My writing friend, Rusty Daily, saw the comment and decided we should co-write a funny children's poem about it (we've co-written children's poetry for years).

One of us writes a few lines, then the other one, and the poem continues to go back and forth as many times as it takes, until the poem is finished to our satisfaction.


Teaching Grampa to Selfie

a Poem, by Rusty Daily and CJ Heck

I taught my old grampa to selfie
(but I've got to teach him agin).
He never aimed my new camera
so none of the pictures were him!

The first time he clicked it, he broke it.
It made such an awful loud sound,
whizzes and whirrs and then buzzing.
(it was sad to see grampa frown).

I waited and watched as they fixed it.
The man in the shop shook his head.
"What IDIOT broke this poor camera?"
Was all that the grouchy man said.

I tried for way over an hour
for grampa to just click and smile.
(Learning my grampa to selfie
is sure going to take me awhile).

When we finally got a good picture
his nose hairs were all sticking out.
I guess grampas aren't s'posed to take selfies ...
so I'm done here -- Over and Out!


Rusty and Kathleen Daily




Thank you, Rusty-friend! 
~Big hugs, CJ







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


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"The Courier": by Ronald Nitke

The Courier's Truck
["The Courier" is a book excerpt from Chapter 14 of an upcoming novel, "Hidden Assets", by Ronald Nitke].

The Courier


The faded red pickup began announcing its arrival a block and a half away, finally groaning to a stop right in front of the house. It displayed its primer gray touch-ups like badges of honor, while a coat hanger antenna vibrated in concert with the rumbling motor. A blue and red bungee cord strained to secure the front bumper to the chassis.

The unsmiling face that emerged hadn’t seen a razor in a few days and, thankfully, a shabby Los Angeles Raiders cap covered much of his untrimmed greasy hair. He looked like he was trying to locate an address.

Ricki hid behind the living room curtain. Mom said someone would be coming to pick up the old files.  They held seven years of Ricki’s tidy bookkeeping. It would be a courier she had said. 

Mom was supposed to have picked them up at the family meeting, but she got so excited talking about the family trust, college educations, and house down payments for grandchildren, she just forgot.

There would be financial security for the whole family, she assured. Neither Dad, nor anyone else could get a word in edgewise. 

They had found a financial advisor that was going to pull all of this together for them. He was an estate planning attorney, highly recommended, and he also knew about real estate. In fact, he seemed to know a lot about everything, as Arthur put it. 

Bill seemed impressed with what he heard Mom say at the family gathering. He gave his total support. Bill commented after the meeting that it was about time Mom and Dad started planning for the family’s future.

The doorbell rang. [Could this be the expected courier? Mom had used the word ‘courier,’ hadn’t she?]  Ricki wondered if there was a loaded gun in the house. 

If she didn’t answer, maybe he would just go away. 

The doorbell rang again, and again. 

[He wasn’t leaving. This must be his destination.] 

Ricki’s cheeks flushed. Her stomach churned. Oh well, Mom did say someone was coming for the files.  This has to be right.

There was no time to call Arthur.  His office was twenty minutes away. She cautiously stepped out from behind the safety of the curtain, gritted her teeth, and mounted the courage to open the front door. 

Before the man even spoke, a foul tobacco odor preceded him. He spat, barely missing his once-white Nikes.

Apparently he didn’t have a name, because he didn’t give one.  He only mumbled that someone named Max had sent him to pick up some of Ellen’s file boxes. 

[He seemed to know the right words, so it must be okay.  This must be the courier.]  

Struck speechless by the event, Ricki pointed to the three neatly taped banker boxes just inside the door. The man made no effort to hide his sweat-stained tee-shirt as he grunted his understanding. 

The only remaining communication from the man consisted of more unpleasant sounding grunts as he hoisted all three of the boxes atop his swollen belly and returned to his truck.

A dark-rooted blond wearing short-shorts she had obviously outgrown thirty pounds ago had already lowered the tail gate. Her grin revealed the absence of an incisor, which neatly allowed for the dangling Marlboro Red. 

The man carelessly tossed the boxes into the bed of the truck, splitting at least one of the seams, nearly allowing several bank statements to escape. He seemed satisfied that the boxes landed snugly amongst the half-crushed Bud Lite cans. He belched approval of his achievement as he reentered the cab and they left as quickly and as noisily as they had appeared. 

Ricki breathed a sigh of relief as the pickup rattled and sped out of sight. She wondered whether the boxes would survive the trip to their destination, wherever that might be. 

She wanted to call Arthur. She wanted to call Bill, but first Mom needs to know about this ...


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.

Read Ron's Short Story, "The Waiting Room and The Judge"

Email Ron

Ron on Facebook



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


Monday, January 12, 2015

Short Story: The Gift of Time

The "Other" Woman
[I found this on the internet and it touched me deeply. Its author is unknown, but I just had to share it. ~CJ]

The Gift of Time


After 21 years of marriage, my wife wanted me to take another woman out to dinner and a movie.

She said, “I love you, but I know this other woman also loves you and would love to spend some time with you.”

The other woman that my wife wanted me to see was my mother, who has been widowed for 19 years. The demands of work and three children had made it only possible to visit her occasionally.

That night I called to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie.

“What’s wrong, are you well?” she asked. (My mother is the type of woman who suspects a late night call, or a surprise invitation, is a sign of bad news).

“I thought it would be nice to spend some time with you,” I responded. “Just the two of us.”

She thought about it for a moment, and then said, “I would like that very much.”

That Friday after work, as I drove over to pick her up, I was nervous. When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed nervous about our date.

She waited patiently at the door with her coat on. I noticed she had curled her hair and was wearing the dress she had worn to celebrate her last wedding anniversary. She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an angel’s.

“I told my friends I was going out with my son and they were impressed, “she said, as she got into the car. “They can’t wait to hear about our evening.”

We went to a restaurant that was nice and cozy, but not elegant. My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady. After we sat down, I had to read the menu to her. Her eyes could only read large print.

Halfway through choosing our entrees, I looked up to see Mom staring at me with a nostalgic smile. “I was just remembering how I used to have to read the menu to you, when you were small,” she said.

“Then it’s time that you relax and let me return the favor,” I responded.

During dinner, we had a nice conversation – nothing extraordinary, just catching up on the events of each other’s life. We talked so much that we missed the movie.

Later, as we arrived back at her house, she said, “I’ll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you.” I agreed.

“How was your dinner date?” asked my wife when I got home.

“Very nice. It was more than I could have imagined,” I answered.

A few days later, my mother died of a massive heart attack. It happened so suddenly that I didn’t have a chance to do anything for her.

Sometime later, I received an envelope in the mail with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place where mother and I had dined. The attached note said,
“I paid this bill in advance. I wasn’t sure that I could be there; nevertheless, I paid for two dinners – one for you and one for your sweet wife. 
You will never know just how much our night out meant to me. I love you, son.”
At that moment, I understood the importance of saying, “I love you” and giving those we love the time they deserve. Nothing in life is more important than family. We have to give them the time they deserve, because often these things cannot be put off until “some other time.”


[Author Unknown]


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



Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Good Marketing Tool: Goodreads Book Giveaway

Free Books as a Marketing Tool?
Sometime ago, a question was posed in one of the author groups I belong to at LinkedIn:

"Are Author Book Giveaways a Good Marketing Tool?" 

Deciding whether a book giveaway is a good marketing tool, or not, is personal and depends on a lot of things.

Last year, I entered a Goodreads Book Giveaway through the entire month of June.

I signed up to give away ten free books and besides the USA, I included all of the countries that Amazon sells books to in the giveaway. My thinking was, I want exposure, lots of exposure -- worldwide exposure!

As the author of five books, I've learned that word-of-mouth is one of my best marketing tools for selling books. A close second would be advertising, marketing, and promotion. 

If readers (remember, readers are buyers) like what I've written, they tell their friends, who also buy and read the book. Then they tell their friends and, as this all goes forward, it gathers even more momentum like the spreading rings in a pond when a pebble is dropped into it. 

I decided the same should hold true for other countries -- if the giveaway did result in winners in other countries, as mine eventually did.

I noticed quickly that the book giveaway also attracted immediate buyers, as well as the potential winners of those ten books. 

By the 11th day of the giveaway, there were already 423 people who had entered the giveaway for my book, and that was worldwide. 

Another 94 added the book to their "to-read" book list, and still others who went ahead and bought the book, read it, and reviewed it ... that in itself was good advertising and marketing. A 5-star review holds a lot of weight and works the same as 'word-of-mouth' -- and there were still 19 days left in June for people to enter the giveaway.

Something else to think about: when your book giveaway is over, those who didn't win a book just might buy one and then review it. This triggers the 'word-of-mouth' advertising all over again. 

As for me, I can safely say that book giveaways are a very good marketing tool for authors.

In a way, it's like planting a garden. You won't grow anything without first planting the seed -- you have to get the book 'out there' in front of people (a book giveaway). Then you have to fertilize it (advertise the giveaway). Then, of course, you also have to give it lots of sunshine for it to flourish ... write thank-you's and smile!


Anatomy of a Poet, by CJ Heck

My Goodreads Book Giveaway was June 1-30, 2013.

Preview: Anatomy of a Poet

Buy on Amazon

Connect with Me on Goodreads!




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


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Short Story: The Waiting Room and the Judge

Spencer Tracy - Father Flanagan

by Ronald Nitke


“What just happened?” My eyes widened. “This is really bizarre. Where the hell am I?”

I suddenly realized I must have said that out loud, yet I was certain my lips didn’t move. I know they didn’t.

The person next to me turned, as if I had said something. I couldn’t make out a face. It appeared to be a man. Then, the face began to form.

I could see it was a strong and confident face with the kindest, most compassionate eyes, like a warm fire on a cold day, looking right at me.  Actually it felt more like he was looking right through me, or maybe he was looking into me, deeply into me.

He didn’t speak or make a sound, but his deep eyes spoke volumes of infinite wisdom and untold secrets. 

I thought I should be afraid, yet I wasn’t.  I knew I could trust this face.  I would have spilled my guts to him.  It was a face I knew; but how, and why?  

And then, I realized … it was Father Flanagan.  There he was, sitting right next to me on this bench, wearing the traditional cassock and biretta.  I knew that face well.  But, how could that be?

An enormous room began to materialize all around us.  It was without visible boundaries, sanitary looking, but really comforting and pleasurable, exceptionally pleasurable.  Occasional soft hues of greens, blues, and purples shimmered in and out further enhancing the otherwise extraordinarily soothing whiteness. 

There was music, soft and classical, like from a concert orchestra, sounding very distant, but at the same time, engulfing and particularly calming.  Birds were singing, complementing the music as if they were part of the ensemble.  I couldn’t see them or the source of the music. 

Father Flanagan was in black and white and assorted shades of gray, strangely unaffected by the other shimmering colors. 

My feet were melting into very thick plush carpeting.  It was pure white and cloud-like, reminiscent of wading in a lily pond on a warm summer afternoon.  I could see my feet, but I couldn’t feel them.  I wasn’t wearing shoes.  

In fact, I realized I wasn’t wearing anything at all.  The abrupt awareness of being naked was unsettling, but Father Flanagan simply nodded his head and suddenly I was cloaked in a soft white gown. 

Then, the aroma of warm chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven began to fill my senses.  My taste buds came alive with anticipation.    I wasn’t hungry, nor was I eating them, yet the flavor overtook me.  Then I wondered, could I be dead?

Father Flanagan finally spoke, “Well, no you’re not really dead,” he kindly answered.  “Perhaps from the form you just left, but you are far from being dead.  There is still much to be done.”  It was Father Flanagan!  It was!  The voice was unmistakable. 

The image of Spencer Tracy in his famous role was perfectly clear.  I must have seen Boys Town forty times.  I loved that movie.  But he was in black and white, just like I remembered him.  And, how could he know what I was wondering?

Then color came to his face, and we were no longer on the bench.  He was now dressed in an immaculate white suit.  It looked like Irish linen, very expensive, very comfortable, and very elegant; collar loose, no tie.  The shoes were Berluti. 

The desk between us had a surface that sparkled and shined as if it were crystal.  I could see the bench where we had been, but it seemed far away now. 

There were other people sitting there now that I didn’t remember seeing before.  Unlike me when I was there, they all appeared to be clothed.  I could hear distant murmurings but the faces and images were fading away into the distance. 

It was just the Father and me now.  We were alone.  I could have sworn we had been over there on one of those benches, but now I’m not so sure.  I don’t even remember coming into the room.  

I thought I was standing, and then I suddenly found myself sinking into a lavishly overstuffed guest chair at this crystal desk, facing an incredibly well dressed and ageless Father Flanagan.  His eyes were soft and consoling.  They never left me.

Did he just say from the form I just left?  What does that mean?  My form is just fine -- well maybe I can’t completely feel it, but it looks just fine.  

Maybe I am dead. How can that be? I feel pretty good. In fact I feel outstanding, I’ve never felt better. I don’t remember being sick, or in an accident, or even being old. Shouldn’t I know if I were dead?

The words, “Are you St. Peter?” finally escaped from my trembling lips.

“No, but I can get him for you.”

“Oh no, please don’t, I’m good.”

My anxious eyes scanned the vast room, on guard for a sighting of the legendary gate keeper. I knew my heart must be racing, although I couldn’t feel it. I tried to be calm, but I’m sure he noticed that I was squirming in the overstuffed chair. It was so soft; it had to be filled with a high quality goose down, or something even more glorious. I could have just melted into it.

“I’ll just stay with you, if that’s all right. Do you know how I got here?” I asked awkwardly trying to hide my fidgeting.

“Most people don’t remember how they got here. They don’t know if there was some kind of accident, a heart attack, an illness, or if they just sat down in their favorite chair and went to sleep.

If you don’t remember, that’s a good thing and it’s not important. If you did remember, well then, that would just be something you would have to deal with before moving on. It’s all part of the transition.”

“Transition?” the word echoed in my head.

The crystal desk that was completely bare just moments before now held a very ornate gold nameplate. I know it wasn’t there before. The word “before” haunted my mind.

I had always had a good sense of time, and now it seemed like it was standing still. And yet it seemed as though this all had taken place in the blink of an eye. I couldn’t even be sure that my eyes were blinking.

The name plate (the one that I’m sure wasn’t there before), was modest in size, perhaps eight inches long and the name ‘Fr. Flanagan’ was in raised gold lettering. “Should I call you Father, or maybe Saint something?” I asked.

“You can call me Father, if you want, but really you can call me whatever you like. For now, I am only here to be your guide and help you get ready for your judge.”

Holy cow, he just said, ‘judge.’ There really is a judge? “What about all these other people?” Now there were many benches, rows and rows of them, with many people -- hundreds, maybe thousands. They were fazing back into view. “Are they waiting for you too?”

“Yes and no, but perhaps not exactly in the sense you may be thinking.”

There he goes again with what I’m thinking. How can he always know what I’m thinking? It’s like he knows the answer before I even know what the question is going to be.

He went on to say, “You see, some people are welcomed by their family members first, that is, if they’re available. And, some see others they have known. Usually someone they have trusted, or admired. But mostly, whatever or whomever they see is for their own comfort.

“What do you mean, if family members are available?”

“Oh, you are such a curious one, aren’t you?” he said with a grin and low chuckle. 

“Of course, this is all new to you. You’ll see how all this works very soon. Some family members may have already returned for unfinished business, or new business, or even on to new adventures or assignments. Some stay longer for other activities, but many are here to study. The possibilities are unlimited.”

“What do you mean returned? Returned where? Do you mean like reincarnated?”

“Maybe, but you wouldn’t normally remember anything, or even want to. You’ll soon learn that the soul remembers all of its lessons. For some, it can just be a fresh start.”

“You said, “study”. Is there a test? Will I have to pass a test? Will I go to hell if I fail?”

“Those are all good questions. The good news is, there really is no hell, per se. That’s just a marketing tool used by many religions. However, I must say, it does have an influence on many souls, often for the better.” He said with a wink that produced a small twinkle in his right eye.

“Actually, what you’re seeing here, including me, is just a reflection of your own conscience, or your own mind, if you will. It’s that part of you that can’t be accessed in the three-dimensional world. You needed to see this image. It’s what you can understand now. It makes sense, and it’s comforting for you.

Some people might see Mother Theresa, or Jesus, or Buddha, or their grandmother, and some even see Moses.” The Father paused and looked off into space, “But he usually seems to look like Charlton Heston. And, of course, many are welcomed by some of their family. Anyway, you got me.”

“Is this heaven?” I wasn’t so sure that I was all that comforted, but I was still savoring the flavor of those heavenly chocolate chip cookies.

“On the surface, and I use that term loosely, heaven is usually not what most people think it is. When you can get inside yourself, truly deep inside yourself, that’s when many can discover that what they’re finding there, really is what they think it is, and even much more.”

I felt like my head was spinning, I needed to change the subject, “So then, are there angels here?”

“Oh yes, of course.”

“Why can’t I see them?”

“You don’t see them right now because they are in dimensions that are still beyond your abilities. Usually you won’t see them at this stage of transition, unless they want to be seen, yet they are all around us.

They sometimes appear as what you might perceive as shimmering colors.” He paused a moment. “Very beautiful.” He sighed. “I love seeing them pass through like that. But of course, they’re generally not really visible, until you achieve access to at least the sixth dimension.

They can sometimes be seen on Earth, but all too often, the human memory can’t hold a clear image, if any image at all. But the sense that something was there is very real, even if it was no more than a little puff of wind. The human mind as it exists on Earth can no more comprehend this than a monkey can perform algebraic equations.

You wouldn’t remember this, but when you first went to Earth, you needed others to care for you and see to all your new needs. Then you learned to communicate in that world, on that level, and later advanced to crawling and walking, and so on and so on.

Now that you’re back here, and once you’ve re-adapted to some of the higher dimensions, you will become aware of much, much more.”

“So what happens now?” My curiosity came out uncontrollably. “Is this really heaven then? Am I going to go to heaven? Are there really pearly gates and streets paved with gold?”

“Oh, I suppose some might see pearly gates and gold paved streets, and maybe even angels with harps riding on clouds. We’ve heard it all, but those are only preconceived images from some of the teachings on Earth. That all makes fine material for books and movies -- something visual, something the three-dimensional world can grasp.

Here, we’re not bound by those limitations, and we really have no need of pearly gates or that kind of opulence, and even less use for gold. That’s all good stuff for the human theater. You might say our medium of exchange here is simply love. Gold and silver will buy you nothing.”

“But what about this fine crystal desk and that linen suit you’re wearing?”

Then, as if the room and desk had never existed, I suddenly found us both standing in a trickling stream. I could feel the gentle coolness on my bare feet. We were both in bib overalls and well-worn straw hats. The music and the birds were still with us. The swiftness of these transitions was making me dizzy.

He spoke again, “Perhaps this makes more sense.”

I followed him out of the stream and we strolled up a grassy knoll and sat under an ancient oak. “Am I going to have to take a test?” I asked, hoping the good Father wouldn’t pick up on my thinly veiled impatience.

He did, of course, and he still hadn’t answered my question about heaven. I wondered if I should have gone to church more.

“Church serves a fine purpose for many people. There are so many of them now, all claiming to be the right one,” he sighed, completely ignoring my question of tests and heaven, moving right on to the invasion of my thoughts about church.

He paused a moment, chuckled, and said, “I suppose they have to claim something impressive to sound credible. The sad part of churches is that there is so much reciting and repeating of words and verses written by others, which in and of itself, can be some pretty good stuff, but it doesn’t take the place of the individual souls putting some energy into looking inside themselves for what they are seeking -- what everyone is seeking.”

“So then, is this heaven?” I asked again.

“Well, not just yet -- not exactly, anyway. You still have to get past your judge.”

“How long will all this take?” The thought of the judge concerned me.

“How long will it take, you ask? That would be a time and space reference so many of you like to bring up when you arrive. It doesn’t work like that here.”

“Are you telling me that time and space don’t exist here?”

“Oh, absolutely they do. It is certainly most essential in the world you just came from. People need to get to work on time. Deliveries need to be made on time. Kids need to go to bed on time, come home on time. The news comes on at six. There are countless things connected with time. Your world revolved around time and most people never seem to have enough of it.

We around here find amusement in its peculiar measurements. The New Year starts eleven days after what’s called the winter solstice, the shortest day for light in most places. Wouldn’t you think that would seem a more likely time to start something as significant as a year rather than waiting eleven more days?

Most of you have gotten the seasons down pretty good, but then, there is the day itself. You people have it starting in the middle of the night in total darkness, long before the first hint of light. And everyone seems to be okay with that.

And then there’s the thing about space, everybody wants their own space, or more space. This is my room, this is my house, this is my yard, and this is my city, state, or country. It goes on and on. There’s no end to how time and space set so many limits on that world. It is much less of an issue here.

So yes, time and space do exist here, as surely as a two dimensional shadow exists on Earth, and with about the same importance. What was too complex to grasp on Earth will become easier to comprehend.” His voice was assuring and as kind as the aroma of the orange blossoms that now drifted through the air.

“So, will I be seeing the judge soon?” I was slightly emboldened by all these new enlightenments.

“Well, you don’t exactly see the judge. It’s not quite that simple. Every soul goes to Earth to learn their own lessons from the moment they separate from the sea of souls at birth, until they return, after their reconciliation.”

“Reconciliation?”

“Yes, reconciliation; you’ll work that out with the judge.”

“Can’t you stay with me to help? You did say you’d be a guide for me.”

“I have guided you this far, answering many of your questions and even more. Remember, I am only a reflection of you. But, I’m afraid you’ll have to face your judge alone.”

He raised his right hand and a holographic kind of image of me began to form, first as a child, then quickly moving to the teenage years, then a young adult. “You can review your life right here.” He said. “This is merely an oversimplified preview.”

I could see the house where I lived as a child, and where I played, and the friends I played with. It was all flashing before me as quickly as lightening, but still with intense clarity.

“Wow, this is amazing! So are you my judge then? Will there be more than one judge?”

“There is only one.”

I nervously brushed off some of the dried grass from my feet.

“The reconciliation part is where you may really notice the time as you came to understand it on Earth. Here’s how it works. You’ll see your entire life and how your decisions and choices have affected others, both good and bad.

Some of the results may really surprise you. You’ll see that things are not always what they seem. You will sort of earn credits for all the love and good you brought into the lives of those around you. Those credits will offset the not so good times, the times of greed, anger, apathy, self-indulgence and other ego-building energies you have used.”

I must have frowned, because he calmly said, “Don’t look so worried, everybody has to go through this.”

“So then, everybody gets through this step?” I inquired hopefully, with a certain amount of anxiety.

“Well, it’s much more than a step, and for some it can be very difficult. Unfortunately, some souls find themselves hopelessly mired in their greed and self-indulgence. The reconciliation can seem to take a very, very long time.”

This bit of news shocked the little bit of confidence I was gaining. “So then, there really is a hell of some kind, but I just can’t understand it. Is that what you’re saying?”

“No, there still isn’t a hell,” was the polite reply. “For those souls that don’t love, whether they can’t, or just choose not to, they will simply cease to exist, but that’s exceptionally rare -- the history books and newspapers may suggest a few.

Like the seeds that are thrown into the fertile field, not every one of them will blossom, but usually sooner or later nearly all do. Virtually everyone has something to work with. The soul has incredible powers of reconciliation.”

“Can’t you be my judge? You seem so nice, and so patient.”

“Oh me, heavens no. I’m not qualified for that. But I will tell you this. As you go through the review of your life, the selfish and self-indulgent parts may seem like an eternity, but they are tempered with the good parts of your life.

For some, it may take what you might think of as years and years, and maybe even centuries to fully reconcile. You will be your own judge.” He paused. “Oh, just one more thing, if by any chance you had the sensation of tasting cookies when you were on the bench you should do well.”

So, we were on a bench. I didn’t imagine that. I wanted to thank him, but then without warning, he was gone and a thousand images of me at various stages of my life instantly appeared and the review of the holographic scenes began, and we all started to examination our life.

Then I heard distant voices, very faint. “I’m afraid he’s gone now.” Followed by, “Doctor, this is really strange, but when I removed his shoes and socks, he had pieces of dried grass on his feet. Didn’t they say he had been in a wheel chair?”


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. 

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


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