Monday, September 28, 2015

So Close!!! Indie Book #49...Just Published!

I'm this close to putting out 50 indie books!  Come check out number 49...it's a hoot!



Blurb:

When a body flies through the air and lands on the sidewalk at Celebrant Sadie Toilette's feet, she considers it a happy accident.  She can finally make a few bucks as the eulogist at the woman's funeral, being in the right place at the right time.  However, the man funding the funeral has other plans, making sure Sadie toes the line…or else.


~~~~~

Chapter 1

It always cracked me up when funeral directors tried to remove jewelry from the deceased, and today was no exception.  The mortician, who was older than dirt itself and nothing but skin and bones, braced his foot against the casket.  His long gangly fingers wrapped around the four-carat diamond on the dead lady's finger as the deceased's family looked on in horror.  Call me insane, but it was hilarious.  I wanted to make fun of him, but kept it in check for the deceased woman's husband and daughter, who were standing right in front of me.

"This is easy," Mr. Coffin said, yanking on the stuck ring.  Yep, that was his real name.  Mortimer Coffin.  Nothing like fate determining someone's job.  Lucky stiff…uh…guy.

Mr. Coffin groaned as he pulled and tugged.  "Trust me.  I'm a professional and I've done this before."

I held my hand over my mouth so I wouldn't laugh out loud.  I wasn't about to tell him to try a lubricant. 

I was the celebrant for this funeral, which meant I conducted the eulogy and directed the service, much like a wedding director did for a wedding.  I thought of myself as Death's Sidekick, but in a fun sort of way.  I was the comic relief.

"Celebrant Sadie, would you help me?" Mr. Coffin asked me.  And yes, my first name was Sadie, which sounded so sad.  It was very fitting for the funeral industry.  But my last name was really creative, thanks to my husband.  It was Toilette.  Sadie Toilette.  It kind of flowed off my tongue, or so I thought when we were first married.  I had chosen to become a sad toilet.  Pathetic.

I pointed toward my chest in horror.  "Me?  I don't do jewelry removal.  I'm really not strong enough."  Granted, I worked out, but I certainly didn't want to touch a dead lady's hand.  Speaking of cold and yucky.  No, not for me.  It might mess up my required new pink manicure.  "I don't think that's in my contract.  Why not call your Bruno-guy."

"Brutus?  He doesn't like dead bodies."  Mr. Coffin yanked again, but the ring was stuck.  He blew out a breath of what smelled like a cross between a dead body and a cigarette.  "He only works here because he likes the worms when he digs the graves.  What a weirdo."

…And look who was talking.  The thought made me hold my breath so I wouldn't chuckle aloud or double over in hysterics.  Yeah, I loved my job sometimes.  Dead people and the living ones who went with them were hilarious.

The family members stared at Mr. Coffin, each of their faces registering their surprise.  The older man turned toward the daughter, speaking in some language I'd never understand if I tried.  I was pretty sure it was Japanese, Chinese, or some other 'ese' language.

The twenty-something daughter nodded, furrowing her recently plucked and shaped eyebrows.  She looked like a top model—the airbrushed version; she was that pretty.  I was so jealous. 

"Dad wants to know if you've ever cut off someone's finger to get their ring," she said.

Mr. Coffin kept yanking.  "Not in front of the family."  He looked up at the woman.  "Oh.  I meant to say, never."

I bit my lips, forcing myself not to laugh.  Of course he'd done it, and if he didn't get this ring, he'd tell the family to bury her with it, then before the casket closed, he'd cut off the finger to get the ring for himself. 

Welcome to the funeral industry.

Mr. Coffin yanked one last time.  The ring flew off the woman's finger, sailed through the air, and landed squarely on the vent on the floor—one with giant slats so mice could come and go as they pleased.  He was such an animal lover.

"No!" Mr. Coffin yelled, diving for the ring.  But it was too late.  The four-carat diamond slid a quarter inch when Mr. Coffin landed.  It fell through the slats and down into the furnace, where they cremated the bodies.  Mr. Coffin told me he was being energy efficient, using the heat from the ashes to heat the building.  Granted, from the incense he burned and the smell of embalming fluid, the place smelled almost sweet, but there was that underlying odor of burning flesh that seemed to invade my nostrils.  Since I'd seen him pay the inspectors more than once while shifting his eyes from side-to-side, I was sure it was 'legal,' like he said it was.  Right…

"We want that ring," the woman said.  "Or we'll sue."

Coffin nodded, but wiped his brow.  "Yes.  I'll make sure you get it."

I just hoped he did get it, because cubic zirconium 'diamonds' didn't quite look the same.  He'd learned that lesson the previous year.  It all worked out okay, sort of, but the lawsuit was still pending.  I hoped that lawsuit went in the client's favor and Coffin would lose the business.  But then again, I seemed to have a problem with revenge.  Even so, if he did lose, it would make a serious dent in my income if the business folded.  So, it probably wasn't a good idea.

Mr. Coffin continued, putting his hand on the arm of the deceased woman's husband.  "Now, it's time for us to bury your wife.  Do you want to say anything at graveside?"

"No, he doesn't," I said.  "I've already handled this and he doesn't understand English."

Coffin faced me.  "I know that.  I'm giving him my best soothing tone."

The daughter shifted her overly made-up eyes toward me, and then turned to Mr. Coffin.  "I understand English."

Mr. Coffin's expression turned flustered, and I could almost see his brain working overtime.  Anyone in the room would know the woman spoke English, because she'd spoken to him a few hundred times while he was getting the body ready for burial.  She's the one who gave him the dress for her mom and told Mr. Coffin how to apply her mother's makeup.  Mr. Coffin was an idiot and it showed on his face.

It wasn't my problem, so I studied my new pink manicure, and then ran my hands down my dark blue dress.  I loved my figure, and I wasn't just saying that.  I'd been lucky to have a great body at my ripe old age of 37.  It wasn't easy to upkeep, either, but I had no choice, according to my husband, Marcus.  He was an evil man at times and wanted me to look like a blonde-haired, blue-eyed trophy wife who loved the color pink and kept a smile on her face with a positive attitude in her heart.  I hated how he treated me, so funerals were my outlet.  Someday, it would be Marcus I'd be burying.  I couldn't wait to get out from under his tyrannical thumb.

"Uh…would you like to say something at graveside?" Mr. Coffin asked the woman.

The woman rolled her eyes.  "No.  I already cleared it with Sadie."

"Good."  He rubbed his hands together, looking as if he was ready for something exciting.  "Ready to bury the stiff?"  He chuckled, but none of us laughed.  Mr. Coffin leaned closer to the woman.  "It's a joke.  No one seems to get my jokes."

"At a funeral?  A joke?"  The woman crossed her arms.  "Are you nuts?"

"Yep.  That's why I love my job."  He ushered us all out of the room just as I smelled the incinerator start up.  "Uh…I'll be right back."  Mr. Coffin ran out of the hallway, moving faster than I thought a man of his age should be able to move.  Must've been the incentive of that giant ring in the incinerator or he'd eaten prunes.  It was hard to tell.

I walked with the older man and young woman toward the hallway, trying not to laugh at the thought of prunes.  It wasn't a laughing matter, but Mr. Coffin did have one thing right—you had to laugh in this business or you'd cry.  Funeral didn't start with 'fun' for nothing.  Who needed valium and laughing gas?  I had funerals.

"So, are you ready to make this final?" I asked.

The woman set her jaw.  "That sounds so sad, when you think about it."

"Not really.  Your mom's been ready to go for a while.  My sister mentally puts the deceased on vacation.  Think of it that way.  Your mom's on vacation and having a ball.  She's probably at the beach and doesn't even need sunscreen."

"That sounds like fun," the man said.  "I'm tempted to join her."

I couldn't believe it.  I'd spent hours talking to the family members and this man never spoke.  "You speak English?"

"Yeah," he said.  "But I don't tell anyone I don't like.  I like you.  You're normal and down-to-earth."

He knew nothing about my weird life, but I shot him a grin anyway.  "I understand."  I ushered them out of the hallway and outside to where the hearse was parked.  "I'll meet you at graveside."

"Thank you for everything," the woman said.  She took her father's arm and walked away to their Bentley.  Yes, they were uber-wealthy, and made sure everyone knew about it.

The memorial service had gone really well, with hundreds of well wishers in attendance.  I wanted to think they all liked the family, but knew it wasn't the case.  They all looked so happy as they each received a hundred bucks and a candy bar, just for attending.  It was irritating, because I only got my measly four hundred dollars for giving the eulogy, which covered the time preparing for the funeral, along with gas and hours upon hours to meet with the family more than once.  I also made ribbons for cancer to pass out before the funeral and created a free memorial photo album of the service for the family.  I was probably the worst business person in the world, which is why I had to keep Marcus happy.  He's the one who kind of put food on the table, when he decided I needed some cash thrown my way.  However, he wasn't home a lot, because his job included gallivanting around the world with his 'restaurant planting' business.  He was so successful and seemed satisfied with his life…when I saw him.  I wish I could say the same for how I felt about him and our marriage—satisfied.  Frustrated was more like it.

I got into my nondescript blue minivan and waited, pulling out of the funeral home parking lot behind the hearse.  As I drove down the streets of Baltimore, I followed the noontime traffic at a snail's pace while refreshing my makeup.  I wasn't worried about being late to the graveside service, because I was leading the funeral procession, right behind the hearse.  My lights were on, and drivers were supposed to yield to every funeral procession.  However, a few drivers cut me off, zipping between the hearse and my car.  I just guessed they were in more of a hurry than a procession of funeral attendees.  It was their loss to miss the funeral.  I loved funerals, and from the way these people drove, their memorial would be in my care before long while their loved ones would tell me how the deceased wanted to be remembered.

As I pulled up to an intersection, I stopped right beside a garbage truck—the kind with the automatic lift for the cans.  I ignored the thing, singing along with some cool 70s song playing on the radio.  I was more interested in the words and my lipstick shade than what was going on around me.

Garbage suddenly rained down over my car, pulling me from my seventies zone.  Candy wrappers oozing in some green slime slid down my windshield, as well as what looked like hamburger and sauerkraut.

"What's going on?"  I honked my horn.  As I looked up through the garbage-strewn windshield, I realized it came from the truck beside my car.  "Stop it!"

The man in the driver's seat of the garbage truck, who was on his cell phone, glanced toward me while I honked my horn.

"What, lady?" he yelled.

I pointed, and he stared as I continued to look upward to see where it had come from.  He moved his cell phone away from his ear, opened the door, and slammed it onto my passenger's car door.  He got out, assessing the situation with his hands on his hips.

It was time to pull out some attitude.  "Hey!  Watch the door and my car, jerk."

"It sucks to be you."  With a laugh, he got back into his truck and merged into traffic.

I sat still, the horns honking behind me.  Once I stared through the smeared hamburger garbage on my windshield, I realized the light had turned green.  Since no cars were to my right, I pulled into the parking lane, happy no one was parked there. 

Just as I slammed the gearshift into park, someone yelled from beside my car.  "You can't park there!"

I got out of my car and stared at all the wrappers, goo, and whatever else covered the top of my car and windshield.  This couldn't be happening.

A little old man with no teeth ran up to me.  He looked like a tiny troll, making me grimace.  He really needed a facial.  "You can't park there," he said.

I put my hands to my hips.  "Why not?"

He nodded to a tiny sign beside the car.  "That's reserved.  Can't ya read?"

"Look at my car."  I pointed so he'd get it.  "Trash fell from the garbage truck and went all over my car.  Is it your junk?"  I really wanted to pin this on someone else.

The cars stopped at the red light beside me and I heard laughter, but ignored it.

Troll-man shook his head.  "Oh, I hope it's not mine.  This here's a taxidermy shop.  Them's innards, if it's my garbage."

I closed my eyes and covered my forehead with my hand.  This wasn't happening to me.  Throwing out animal guts had to be against the law.  I hated dilemmas like this.

I had to do something.  Squaring my shoulders, I faced the small troll of a man.  "Don't tell me things like that.  Can you help me clean this off?  I'm late for a graveside funeral service and I'm in charge of it."

He stared at my car, grimacing.  "Sorry.  That's above my pay grade, but you have to move your car.  We have a very important person coming and they need to park right there."

"An important person at a taxidermy shop?"

"He'll be here any minute.  He's rich and wants to buy a bunch of dead cats.  One of them is his, and he wants it to have friends or something, I think."

What an odd thing to request.  Even though I had to be at graveside, I had to see this dead-cat-fetish guy.  I loved to see weird characters.

After crawling back into my car, I pulled up a few spaces, which were fortunately empty, and went into a diner near the taxidermist's store.  I needed to get some paper towels to keep busy so I could see the dead-cat guy.

Once I stepped into the diner, I lifted my heel from where it stuck on the floor and studied the bottom of my shoe.  This place wasn't very cleanly.  But I needed help, so I looked up to see the hostess' face.  "Do you have any paper towels, or a broom, or a shovel I could use?"  I turned and pointed toward my car.  "The garbage truck just dumped a load on my car."

"So?  Can't help you."  She chomped on her gum, turned, and practically ran away from me.

I was stunned.  If I were her, I'd be helping scrap the junk off the person's car while laughing at their misfortune.  But, thinking about it, these people weren't into clean floors, so they probably didn't have anything to help.  Regardless, she could've been nicer about it.

I turned on my heel and headed back toward my car, nasty thoughts crossing my mind.  Revenge would be sweet, just to throw the garbage all over her windows.  I should turn on my wipers full blast, just to nail her dirty windows.  See how she'd like it.

Once I reached my car, I heard tires squeal and a thud.  Thuds are never good, especially thuds that make someone fly through the air and land on the sidewalk.  It was going to be one of those lucky days, with a potential funeral landing right at my feet…literally. 

Buy Links ($2.99, updated on the website when they go live):
 Smashwords

Enjoy!

Andie/Markee

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened This Summer

Our youngest was home for the summer, and took three online classes for her college degree.  One of those classes was marketing for a general education class.

So I picked her brain about how to market books.  She had some advice that made sense.

*  Define your market:  My books, for example, are for married women between the ages of 30-50.  She said it should be very specific, more specific than I've mentioned.  I'm thinking about this more.

*  Know where your market hangs out:  Are they on social media and if so, when?  That's when and where you should market your books.

*  Create a theme:  This one was really interesting.  I thought I HAD a theme--sweet books with character, but it wasn't all-encompassing.  I didn't stress it at all.  That was evident when someone on twitter thought my murder mystery wasn't sweet.  Sweet, to me, means no swearing, no explicit sex, no gory descriptions--think clean, or something your grandmother might enjoy.  To some others, it also indicates a type of romance with no religious content.  However, I think any genre can be sweet, or clean, so I'm going with that.  Thus, I need to build some sort of clean/sweet platform that encompasses all my books and genres.

*  Advertise:  Now this takes money that I don't have.  So I'm going to have to get creative.  I thought about it.  I do have blogs that people do visit.  I have social media where I could market.  But it has to be unique and creative.

So, I'm going to have to work on something to pull all my sweet/clean books together into one group, marketing them as one type of book.  I've laid the groundwork for it, with my SweetTaleBooks website but need to incorporate them all into one group.

What about your books?  How could you market them better?  Any other ideas I'm missing?

Have a great week!
Markee

Friday, September 18, 2015

Would You Like Fries With That?

So I know someone who needs a job.  She's a great person and a fantastic asset to any company, but unwilling to work a minimum wage job.

Now, if you're just starting out or getting back into the work force, let me tell you something--you can't start at the top.  You have to start at the bottom and work your way up, to prove yourself.  You have to be willing to say, 'would you like fries with that,' which is another way to say, 'start at the bottom' and be the clerk instead of the owner.

It's the same thing in the writing industry.  There are too many writers who think they're best seller status and even put that on their website (unearned, mind you) because they think they can write.  They have NO training, but someone told them along the line that their book has some sort of merit.

So here's the deal.  You have to ask about the fries before you can be the boss.  That's the way life goes.  And if you're ever at the top, you'll be thankful you waited to get there.  The journey from fries to boss is amazing.  You learn more than you ever thought possible.

Have a great week!
Markee

Friday, September 11, 2015

A followup story...

Remember back in May when I wrote about the guy stopping me on the street to take pictures of our dogs?  It's here, in case you don't remember: A Plot Around Every Corner.

Well, two of our storm windows fell out in a big storm about a month ago.  The guy came out to give us an estimate, and wouldn't you know, HE was the guy taking the pictures of our dogs!  He LOVES to read and his family is full of teachers, just like my family.  I told him he scared me that day, so he wants to get some of my books to make up for scaring me.  LOL!  I gave him the blog for our dogs, and told him to give it to his sister-in-law, who loves Bostons.

What a weird world, huh?  I feel another plot coming on.  HAHAHAH!

Have a great week!
Markee

Friday, September 4, 2015

Fall Into a Book Today!

So the kids are back in school and you're bored.  What do you do next?

Escape!  That's right!  You've deserved some time to yourself.  Turn off the phone and the TV, walk away from the computer and all the housework that's beckoning you, and grab a book.  I have a bunch you can pick from, if you don't know what to read first.  I'd suggest something fun to read, like the books from Andie Alexander, or something light, like the books from Paige Ryter.

Read a book today.  I can guarantee your brain will thank you.  You'll feel mentally refreshed and ready to tackle the next item on your list.

Have a super day!
Markee

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It's September Already???

Welcome to September!


Wow.  I took the dogs for a walk this morning and saw parents out taking pictures of their kids for the first day of school.  Already?  Wow.  Where DID the summer go?

I'm still keeping up with publishing a book a month this year, my personal challenge.  I JUST made it, under the wire yesterday for August's book.  Wow.  Didn't think I'd make it but it's a fun challenge!  Granted, many of the books I'm putting out were already written or halfway written (like last month's book), so I didn't have to write the thing from scratch like some months.  But still, getting them off my computer feels GREAT!

I hope everything's going well for you in your neck of the woods.  Welcome September!

Have a wonderful month!
SweetTale Books





What Happened At
SweetTale Books
in August?


Eryn Grace has another book out for August!  YAY!  Even though it's a contemporary romance, there's a story about WWII in the beginning that was fun to write.  It's all fiction, but the story talks about a concentration camp in Poland--Treblinka, with a feel-good ending.  Enjoy!


Faith in the Darkest of Nights, by Eryn Grace:




Blurb:

*** BASED ON CHRISTIAN MORALS--CHRISTIAN ROMANCE ***

For Becky Lewis and her three children, life isn't fair.  Now, with the death of her military husband, she knows she's stuck living in her parent's home with them.  However, in her last conversation with her husband while he was in the hospital overseas, he told her to meet his commanding officer, Captain Reese Simon.

Captain Simon, a confirmed bachelor, never knew about God's love.  However, PFC Bob Lewis told him a story that changed his life.  The story took place in a concentration camp in WWII Treblinka, Poland, and how, even when the night is dark and the outcome is bleak, God is with us all.


Can Captain Simon help Becky and the kids come to know the love of Jesus, given their circumstances?  Or will it take an extreme crisis for Becky to understand that she is also saved?


Excerpt:

Chapter 1



Captain Reese Simon stood in the hospital hallway, listening to a phone conversation.  He didn't want to interrupt, but the man in the bed had asked to speak to him.

The man sighed over the phone.  "Becky, don't be angry, please?  I'll be home as soon as I can, if I can."

Captain Simon hobbled into the hospital room from where he'd been listening.  He and Private First Class Robert Lewis were both patients in the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.  They called his underling PFC Bob—but that was before he was flown to Germany along with most of their unit.  No need to change that nickname now.  He was still the same man as before, even though the guy's injuries seemed to indicate otherwise.

"I'll leave," Captain Simon whispered to PFC Bob, since the man was still on the phone. 

As Captain Simon turned to inch away on his crutches, PFC Bob motioned for him to come back into the room.  "Talk to my C. O.," he said, over the phone.  "His name's Captain Reese Simon." 

Captain Simon went toward the bed and took the phone held out for him.  "Hello?"

"Who am I really speakin' to?"  The woman's voice sounded tough, with a soft southern accent.  Bob didn't have an accent, so maybe he wasn't from the south, where they'd initially been stationed.

"This is Captain Reese Simon," he said.  "And who is this?"

"My name's Becky Lewis.  Tell me about my husband, Bob's, injuries?"

Captain Simon looked down the bed to where Bob's legs should have been.  "He'll live.  It'll take some time for him to come home, though."

"Will he walk?"

Captain Simon froze.  "What did he tell you, exactly?"

"He said he lost his legs, but won't tell me how or any of his other injuries.  He's called me every day for three days, but won't tell me anything else."

"That's confidential right now, until we can talk to our superiors, ma'am.  Just you hang tight and we'll get Bob home to you in no time."

"Considerin' he hasn't been here for years, that'll be a first."  She sighed, and Captain Simon heard a child crying.  "I have to go.  Tell him I'll call him tomorrow."

"Yes, ma'am.  I hope that child stops crying, too."

"Don't you worry about my kids.  They just miss a father they barely know.  Good bye, Captain Simon."

"Good bye."  He hung up the phone and looked down at the man in front of him.  "PFC Bob.  I think we have a problem."

PFC Bob smiled up from his bed, his face pale.  "That we do, Captain.  That we do."  He glanced downward.  "I do believe we hit a landmine."

"All of us."  Captain Simon looked downward at his own mangled leg, wrapped in bandages and a cast. 

"So was Becky nice to you?"

Captain Simon nodded.  "She's just frustrated.  She'll be fine and said she'd call you tomorrow.  It has to be a shock to hear her husband's in the hospital in Germany."

"Yeah."  He paused and took a breath.  "So how are you doing?"

The Captain looked downward again.  "They finally let me out of my room.  I'm shipping stateside when there's transportation, then I'll go through rehab."

PFC Bob shook his head with a frown, looking as if he might cry.  "Not me.  I'm not going home alive."

Captain Simon straightened as if at attention.  "You don't know that, soldier.  Never give up.  Your wife's expecting you home."

PFC Bob's eyes grew weary, looking rather sad.  "Sir, the doc came to see me.  It's going to be a long haul.  With the loss of both of my legs…"  He trailed off and turned his head away.

The thought of one of his men dying made the captain a little sentimental, but he knew PFC Bob had it in him to make it.  He was a legacy—his grandfather and his father had both been in the Army.  PFC Bob didn't seem to have much drive, but wanted to follow in his family's footsteps, telling everyone in his unit he was made to be a military man.  He just didn't follow through with the actions to match his words.  PFC Bob could make it home, if he wanted to.

"There's a reason I asked to talk to you," PFC Bob said.  "I want you to send my widow a message, without her yelling at me."

Captain Simon pulled up a chair, and using his crutches, sat down beside the bed.  "You mean your wife, Becky.  Not your widow, because you're not dead.  She lives near the base in Georgia, right?"

"No, I mean my widow, because I'm not going to make it.  She doesn't live near the base, either.  She moved back home to be with her parents, near Dallas.  Anyway, I want to record something for my kids.  I never told anyone this story, and it's going to die with me if I don't tell someone."

"You're not dying, but I'll get a tape recorder just so you can sleep."  Captain Simon stood, hobbling toward the door.

"Thank you," PFC Bob said, calling after Captain Simon.  "And I'd like you to hear it in case anything happens to the tape."

"Yes, sir.  I'd be honored."  Captain Simon turned and headed out the door, figuring it would be the last will and testament of a man who wasn't dying.  If PFC Bob was that bad, they'd send him home immediately.  But if it humored Bob, so be it. 

Captain Simon greeted the people along the way to his room, trudging down the hallway.  He looked at it this way—he could be in his bed watching television or he could be listening to PFC Bob drone on and on about some story that probably wasn't even true.  For all he knew, Bob may be writing fiction, hoping his wife would sell it to make ends meet after he got back home. 

Bob's recovery would be an uphill climb, but he was the one who'd detonated the mine.  The guy had to go to the bathroom, and they just happened to stop at the right place on the road.  Bob hopped out and stepped on the mine, blasting everyone and everything in their way.  Captain Simon was driving.  When the truck overturned, Captain Simon's left leg was mangled against the door and whatever else it hit.  After that, things got hazy, in and out of consciousness for the entire trip to Germany.  But he remembered Bob screaming, and then saying one thing over and over again.  Something about hope in the Lord.  That was one thing Captain Simon didn't want to hear.  It actually ticked him off, because there was no God that he knew of.

Captain Simon sighed, getting the audio recorder from his room.  He'd requested it for himself, to pass the time away on a new melody going through his head.  The thing was digital and looked almost like a cell phone, able to record almost 400 hours to upload to a computer. 

After putting the recording device in his palm, he hobbled on his crutches to PFC Bob's room.  "I'm back."

"Captain.  Did you bring the recorder?"

"Sure did."  He took his seat and opened his hand to show it.  "I'm ready when you are."

"Turn it on."  PFC Bob waited while the Captain started it after his song, and then nodded.

Bob took a breath.  "I want to tell my wife, Becky, that I love her.  I've loved her since the moment I met her and have never stopped loving her.  I thank God that He put her in my life.  I never should've joined the military.  Granted, it's what I wanted to do—what I felt I had to do—but my heart's not in it.  Because of me, many fine soldiers are now wounded.  It's my fault we hit the landmine.  Actually, I hit the landmine, or so I'm told.  I don't remember any of it."

Captain Simon turned off the machine.  "Bob, it's not your fault.  That could've been any one of us.  We were told that area had been cleared already."

"Regardless, if it weren't for me, we'd all still be out there doing our job."  He motioned to the machine.  "Turn it on.  I'm not done—I've hardly begun."

Captain Simon flipped the thing on.

PFC Bob continued.  "Becky, if I don't make it back, I want you to find our kids a father figure so your parents don't have to raise our children.  I want him to be someone that will raise our kids in the faith and be a better father than I've been.  I also want our children to know God.  Becky, promise you'll teach them what I can't teach them with their new father figure.  Get them to church and have them memorize as much of the Bible as they can.  I especially want them to remember Psalm 118:6, which says, 'The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?' and Psalm 31:24, which says, 'Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.'  Those two verses helped my grandfather and my father get through their trials of war, when captured by the enemy.  At least that didn't happen to me."

His grandfather and his father were prisoners of war?  Now it made more sense.  PFC Bob didn't want to become a POW.  That's why he always hesitated to jump in feet first.

Captain Simon sat up, listening intently to every word.  Getting into the minds of his unit helped solidify his troops.  If he could get them to think alike and complement each other, he could have the best unit around.

"I also want them to memorize Psalm 23, and 2 Samuel 22: 2-4.  Those are two messages that will get them through so many things.  They need to commit them to memory if they're ever in trouble and don't have a Bible with them."

Captain Simon wondered what PFC Bob was talking about, since Captain Simon had never read a Bible.  His family was filled with angry atheists.  But he didn't want to be anything like them.  Maybe he needed to know more?  So he reached over, opened the drawer to the nightstand, and grabbed the Bible, 

"You don't know where that is, do you?" PFC Bob asked him.

Captain Simon shook his head.  PFC Bob took the Bible and showed him Psalm 23 and 2 Samuel 22.  "Psalm 23 lets my kids know that God is with them, even in the toughest of times, or the darkest of nights.  They should just have faith.  2 Samuel 22: 2-4 lets them know that God can handle any problem, no matter how big, and they'll be saved from evil and their enemies.  They're very powerful things to memorize.  I want my children and my children's children to know what's gone through the heads of their ancestors when faced with the terror of death.  I want to tell them what happened, starting with their grandfather, back in World War II."

Now it was getting good for Captain Simon.  He loved war stories, especially if the good guys won.  He leaned back and just listened, the Bible still in his hands.

"My grandfather, John Lewis, was born back in 1923.  He was a funny kid, always cracking a joke.  His father was rather strict and would force his kids to memorize parts of the Bible.  The guy believed anything could be taken from you except your memories.  So John learned much of the Bible from his father.  John didn't have any real skills for a job, and since there wasn't much money after the Great Depression, John joined the Army when he was 18.  Now back then, the Air Force, as we know it, didn't exist yet."

"That's right," Captain Simon said.  "It was called the Army Air Forces, but changed by President Truman through the National Security Act of 1947."

PFC Bob smiled slightly.  "You know your history."

Captain Simon shrugged, not wanting to say he had a college degree in history.  "It's a hobby of mine.  I like anything to do with the military."

PFC Bob took a breath and blew it out.  "He was put in the Army Air Forces and flew as a gunner in the Army, lying in the belly of the plane.  When John was 19, the United States had already been involved in World War II since January of 1942, after Pearl Harbor's attack on December 7, 1941.  They sent John's unit overseas, to help protect our allies.  His plane got into a huge fight with fighter pilots near Germany in July of 1943.  They fought with the other planes and were eventually taken down.  John was the only one to survive, but the German SS—the secret police—took him hostage.  Over the next five days, they beat John, who only recited his name, rank of Sergeant, and the Bible verses I told you about.  Psalm 118:6—'The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?' and Psalm 31:24—'Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.'  He was so happy to have been forced to memorize much of the Bible, because the Psalms gave him the most hope for the future."

PFC Bob paused, glancing down at the recorder.  Captain Simon joined him, making sure it was recording.

PFC Bob continued.  "Now, remember, he would've only been 19 at the time.  His 20th birthday was about a month away, in August.  He was scared, knowing he'd never see his family again.  But he knew God was watching out for him and had a plan for his life."

"Uh-huh."

PFC Bob stopped talking and stared at Captain Simon.  "You don't believe."

"I believe you and the story about your grandfather."

"No.  You don't believe God will save us through Jesus Christ.  You're not a Christian, are you?"

Captain Simon shook his head.  "I was raised to believe there is no God."

"You were raised wrong.  I think this is my mission in life—to save you from sin.  Captain, Jesus died on the cross, taking away our sin.  Have you ever heard that before?"

"No, sir."

He nodded toward the Bible.  "I have a job for you.  I want you to read that Book.  Start with the New Testament so you'll know who Jesus Christ is.  Read the book of John—all emotion is out of that chapter, I think.  It's just the facts and summarizes a lot of things."  He grabbed the Bible and leafed through it, showing Captain Simon the first page of the book.  "You'll learn about Jesus.  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the four gospels.  Read those for me before I die.  It'll make me very happy."

Captain Simon looked down at the words on the page before him.  Could he do this?  Could he read something he didn't believe in?  As he looked up at PFC Bob's smile, he knew he'd do it for his troops.  Maybe it would make more sense to him why some of his men wore a cross around their neck.

Captain Simon had to do something, wanting to hear more of the story.  If it could make PFC Bob tell more, he'd abide by PFC Bob's request.  "I'll do it, for you."

"By tomorrow.  I might die soon and I want to know you've read it."

Captain Simon nodded.  He was good to his word, even though he was sure PFC Bob wasn't dying.  "Tell me about your grandfather."

PFC Bob's eyes closed briefly.  "I'm really tired.  I think they're slipping me sedatives, because I'm not sleeping at night."

Captain Simon reached up and patted PFC Bob's arm.  "Get some sleep.  We'll talk again tomorrow."  He lifted the recorder and turned it off while Bob fell asleep.  Captain Simon put the Bible away, knowing he had another one beside his hospital bed.

He shuffled back to his room, deciding along the way to transcribe Bob's words for his wife, in case anything happened to the recording.  He got to his bed and opened the drawer to the nightstand beside the bed, seeing the Bible before him.  He pulled it out of the drawer, along with paper and a pen, and got to work.  At least it was better than doing nothing in that bed. 


 ~~~~~




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