Christmas

Christmas Getting Out of Prison

I like to think myself as seeing people as they truly are, looking beyond labels. This morning I realized just how shallow I can be.

I first heard about Sam a few months ago. He is one of my neighbor’s brothers and she told me he was getting out of prison just before Christmas. At the time I didn’t give it much thought, just conversation. She was excited she would finally get to see him again. I was happy for her, ’cause I’m such a caring, compassionate guy.

Today she was coming up the stairs while I was on the balcony, Sam was behind her. She introduced us. I remembered the conversation from months ago and realized he had just gotten out after an 18 year stint.

We talked for the next hour or so. About his plans. About how his life had changed in the time he was “away.” He was smart, articulate, positive. He owned his choices and was quick to point out life had been more than fair to him. He paid the price for the choices he had made and he believed he would also pay the price or reap the reward for the choices he is making now.

He’s a guy I could hang out with and have a good time.

But here’s what it showed me about myself I didn’t like. When I went back into Area 51 after our talk, I was surprised by him. Without me even realizing it, I had in my own mind a “picture” of what an 18 year ex-con would be like. Seeing himself as a victim. Unintelligent. Negative. Angry at what the world had thrown at him.

It made me wonder how many other “categories” of people I dismiss without realizing they are “people” not just a category. Political affiliation. Religion or lack thereof. Skin color. Geography. Socioeconomic status. Job.

In 2017 I’m going to attempt to see more “people” and less “category.” That might be the best Christmas gift I could receive. Thanks Sam.

 

 

 

 

 

 


How to Create a Full-Time Income from Your Writing in 2017

I am going to be there. If you ever want to be paid to write, you should as well…and it’s free. – Kevin

Reblog from http://pubbleme.wordpress.com

Make Money from Your Writing

I published my first book online 16 years ago. It flopped in spectacular fashion. I spent over $15,000.00 on promotions the first month it went online and I made precisely two sales at $29.95.

Was I foolish? Certainly. I thought I knew what I was doing. What I suddenly discovered is I didn’t have any clue.

That’s the bad news.

Hi, my name is Kevin Bidwell, and I am the founder and “Chief Author Advocate” at pubble.me. I started out as a writer then moved on the helping other writers get published and get paid.

So you’ve heard the bad news…now here’s the good news.

The good news is… (Click Here to Read the rest at pubble.me)


Resurrection 69

This is a chapter of the book I am writing for NaNoWriMo. If you want to read it from the start, click here for the chapter index.

The Most Reverend Harry Reynolds

Bishop Harry Reynolds had grow up in Burlington, Vermont. He attended Asbury in the 70s and had been placed in a key church in Lexington upon his own ordination. His goal had been, from the start, not to be a pastor, but to be Bishop. After 35 years working his way from Associate Pastor, to Pastor, to District Superintendent, he finally achieved his goal.

Rev. Reynolds was a large man with a small heart. He knew how to use people for his own ends and did so deftly. It often took one of his victims years to find they were pawns all along. Being in “ministry” gave him ample opportunity to find the naive who were innocent enough not to question his motives.

“Aggie,” barked Reynolds from the doorway, his 6’2″ 300 pound frame filling the space.

In the United Methodist church, newly ordained ministers in Kentucky are typically assigned to one of two career tracks, though they are never referred to by that term formally. The Bishop and District Superintendents would each take time to meet those to be ordained, supposedly a spiritual examination, but in reality it was more of a personality quiz.

Those initial meetings would give the leaders a good idea of who was fit for the Leadership Track or the Chaplain Track.

If a candidate showed great people skills, spoke well, was intelligent and ambitious, they were selected for the Leadership Track. If a candidate was slower, possibly having poor people skills, he would be subjugated to the Chaplain track.

The chaplain track meant a new minister would be sent to a smaller, rural congregation where he could do baptisms, confirmation classes, weddings, funerals and visit the sick. If one were placed on the chaplain track it meant they put you where you could do the least damage. Chaplains were not “spiritual leaders.”

For those on the “Leadership Track,” there was a different procedure. After seminary, those pastors would be moved into an Associate Pastor position at a larger church. The place the District Superintendent and Bishop agreed new pastors would “learn the ropes” under a successful Senior Pastor.

When it came to J.W., they saw he was an intelligent, driven young man. A man who himself would make a good replacement at a large church for a retiring senior. They had his career all mapped out for him. He was young, good looking, great family, great personal skills and they knew any church he pastored would grow.

They assigned him to Christ United Methodist in Lexington. The Senior Pastor, Walt Campbell, was due to retire in six years. Walt was a dynamic speaker and well known for his humorous stories. Not only had the church swollen during his 20 year tenure, with two large building expansions as well, they had started televising the services and he was now well known all over the state as “Kentucky’s Pastor.”

Replacing him would mean finding the right candidate and giving him several years to become a part of the community, learn to speak well, get to know the congregation. J.W. and his young wife would be welcomed and in just a few years would certainly be a wonderful replacement for Walt.

Once the assignments were made, the group of newly ordained ministers, the District Superintendents and the Bishop would then gather together for a day of prayer and fasting over the assignments. This traditional time was meant to confirm in their own hearts the decisions they made were consistent with the leading for the Holy Spirit.

Reynolds thought the tradition a bit dated and trusted more in his own plans than a “move of the Spirit,” but he paid it lip service nonetheless.

J.W. fasted and prayed over his assignment, as did the other newly ordained pastors. During that 24 hours, he became more and more convinced he wanted to work with the poor, the needy, the people he had seen struggling just to survive in White County. He was reminded of John 14:12 where just before his crucifixion Jesus said:

“…whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing…”

Christ UMC was the path for J.W. to become an “executive pastor.” Someone who primarily prepares sermons, leads the church through example as well as administration. A  public face for a large church. Executive pastors, J.W. knew, weren’t too involved with the individuals. They weren’t out touching the poor one to one. They weren’t involved in the messy lives of the needy. Those tasks were left to associate pastors and paid staff beneath him.

J.W. wanted to do the things Jesus had done, not run a television ministry. He felt a call, much like he had at the Student Union those years ago, to go to a small church. A church where he could do the things Jesus did.

When the day of fasting and prayer was over, each ordinant had a private meeting with all the district superintendents as well as the Bishop. Typically this was more of a “rubber stamp” where the ordinant simply came in and confirmed the decisions already made.

When it came time for J.W. to meet, he was completely convinced Christ UMC is not where the Holy Spirit was leading him.

His voice trembled a bit as he explained. “I believe God is calling me to a smaller, rural church.”

Reynolds was the first to speak. He had experienced this before, a young pastor, maybe lacking confidence, being fearful of going to a “prime” church.

“Now J.W., we believe you can do incredible ministry at Christ. The Lord needs you there.” It was somewhat interesting how Reynold’s desires and God’s always seemed to be the same.

“With all due respect Bishop Reynolds, I know I ‘can’ do good things for the Lord there, but there are many who are willing and able to go to an established church like that and make a difference. I want to go to a place where I can truly work with the people. Get my hands dirty. Do the things, deal with the people, that Jesus did. The poor, the needy. Not everyone is willing to throw themselves into that kind of work.”

Reynolds didn’t feel respected. Who did this young kid think he was speaking to? The men around this table had over 100 years of combined experience. They were Godly men who made this decision. Who was he to question their judgment?

Before the Bishop could answer, DS Carl Willcox, D.Min. spoke up. “We don’t want to hide you under a bushel, J.W. We believe you have tremendous potential for the Lord and that’s the reason we want to send you to Christ.”

Willcox would be J.W.’s DS.

“I don’t know how much potential I have, or don’t have. But sir, if you’re correct, shouldn’t those with the greatest need receive the best possible care?” J.W. was rapidly painting himself into a corner.

Reynolds had enough of this insolence. He seethed inside, though through years of practice he had learned to hide that fact. He spoke in measured tones. “You believe so strongly you need to be at a small rural church you’re willing to stake your ministry career on it? We only want the best for you and for your wife as well as for the church.”

It was a threat not lost on J.W. nor the other district superintendents. Most of the DSs have experienced Reynolds threats before. They may fear God, but many feared Reynolds more.

“I do, Bishop.”

“Fine,” Reynolds responded, “you’re from Silerville and Silerville First is open. we were going to send Harrington, but we can shuffle things around. Be blessed in your ministry there.”

Reynolds managed to say the last without sounding sarcastic, though he certainly was. Sending J.W. to his home town meant he would likely fail. “No prophet has honor.” He would be seen as the kid who grew up there by the older members and as the kid they went to school with by the younger. They would never treat him as a spiritual leader.

Reynolds decided in that moment he would do whatever he could to see J.W. fail.


Warmth

 

Intimate Couple Making Love

He woke a little before 5am Sunday morning.

The weather had finally turned cold and so was his apartment this morning. He lay in bed, refusing to leave the warmth of the covers, wishing Her body was next to him.

They were on a “break.” She is complicated and fragile and wonderful. Her fragile reached its limit at the end of October and they decided to take a break until after the holidays. She needed time to be alone, regroup, read and sleep.

This morning He longed for the feel of Her skin.

They had shared many intimate times.  Some of the most intimate had nothing to do with making love. They were travelling, experiencing joys and hardships, joking about Rick the convenience store attendant who called him “Boss” and her “Honey.” Debriefing the day and the week.

But for him the most intimate experiences He had with Her focused on just touching Her, feeling the warmth of Her skin beneath His hands.

When He woke in the mornings, She was usually facing away from him. He would put his arm around Her waist and caress the skin of Her stomach. When they made love, He would caress Her entire body with his palms.

He had told Her “touching your skin nourishes my soul.” This morning, He longed for that nourishment.


Resurrection 68

This is a chapter of the book I am writing for NaNoWriMo. If you want to read it from the start, click here for the chapter index.

Inez

Early Monday morning, Chief Dalton set out, subpoena in hand, for the Baptist Children’s Home main office in London. He retrieved copies of all the adoption documents then went to the Shoney’s to see what he could find out about J.W.’s mother.

Her name was Romona Farmer, he read, and she had twin boys when she was just 16, no father listed.

As he read, he talked to his coffee.

“Twins, that’s what I thought.”

“Kept one. Need to find out what the name is.”

“Wonder if she still lives in Inez.”

He dialed his cell, calling the White County Clerk.

“Vicky, this is the Chief. Can you look up a DMV record for me? I’m looking for…” and he rattled off Romona’s details.

Vicky called it up from the Commonwealth database, giving the chief her current address and car registration.

“Thanks, Vicky. Tell your mother ‘hey’ for me.” Vicky’s mother and Dalton had gone to school together.

“I will Chief.”

Dalton disconnected, finished his coffee, gathered his papers and set out on the two hour drive to Inez.

Inez, Kentucky has been through many incarnations over the last 200 years.

James Ward first explored the fertile, wooded area surrounding Rockcastle Creek, making it his home, in 1810.* In the 19th century the valleys carved by the snaking waters of the Eastern Kentucky hills were called “bottoms,” so Ward decided the name the area Arminta Ward’s Bottom, as a joke poked at his, Arminta.

In the 19th century Martin County had few opportunities. The land was rugged and roads, if one could call them that, were sparse. The nearby Tug Fork, leading to the Big Sandy River could take supplies and out, otherwise there was isolation. The people survived by ringing every last measure of food from the rocky soil, raising hogs and using the common coal outcrops as fuel for heat and cooking.

In the mid 1800s John Warfield established the Warfield Salt Works and began mining the salt from the limestone caves surrounding the area. He also began to market the plentiful coal in the area, mining it and moving it down the Tug and Big Sandy. He eventually renamed the business the Warfield Salt and Coal Works.

The civil war ended Warfield’s ambitions as well as his Salt and Coal Works.

In 1873, the area around Arminta Ward’s Bottom was added to the newly created Martin County. Because it is a beautiful, lush valley, it was renamed on the occasion Eden, Kentucky until a year later when the postmaster found an Eden, Kentucky post office already existed. He changed the name to Inez after Inez Frank, the daughter of the postmaster of Louisa, Kentucky. He hoped to marry her and what better way to woo his love than to name the city after her.

While coal mining brought jobs over the years, they were subsistence jobs in mining camps where the men worked hard in the dark, risking their lives, to survive.

Poverty was always a heavy millstone around the neck of the people of Martin County. The area was always rugged and isolated, survival difficult. The poverty there is so extreme Lyndon Johnson used Inez as the visual representation of poverty in Appalachia, visiting Inez in 1964 to launch his “War on Poverty.” At the time 60 percent of the residents lived far below the poverty level.

Today Inez “boasts” less than 500 residents. Most of the available jobs were in coal, natural gas or oil. Some work at the Big Sandy Corrections Center just outside the town. Still about a third of the population still simply subsists.

People who grew up in the ease of the middle class have trouble understanding the way people who have lived in poverty their whole lives think. Outwardly, they are exactly the same as those who have never experienced it. Internally, they are far different.

Hardship is accepted as the norm. They have all experienced hunger. They have all experienced an illness they did not have the resources to care for adequately. Every day the minor inconveniences easily dealt with by those of greater means often meant temporary or even permanent disaster. An unusually high electric bill, a car repair, a case of the flu could jeopardize the financial house of cards they live in daily.

The constant fear means vigilance. Looking for both opportunity and threat.

This is where Romona Farmer was raised. Threats were everywhere. Opportunities were sparse. When she saw Chief Dalton’s Explorer drive up to her trailer, her heart jumped.

Dalton approached the trailer. The skirt was missing over half of it’s length. The sidings were covered with the dirt from years of neglect. As he climbed the wooden steps to the door, he felt as if they might give way.

When she heard Dalton’s knock, she almost didn’t answer. Romona did an inventory of the petty crimes she might have committed, wondering if there might be an arrest warrant out there someplace and this policeman was here to collect.

But it could also be about Ricky.

She willed herself to the door.

“Can I he’p you?” She asked, leaving Dalton on the porch.

“Are you Romona Farmer?” Dalton asked with some authority. He had found being commanding was almost always the best choice.

“Yes, I am. What’s this about?”

“Ma’am, can I come in please? I need to ask you some questions.” Dalton didn’t intend to tell her about the body yet, too soon to even know if it was her son.

Romona let him in and offered him a seat on the couch. At one time it had been a light brown, but now the armrests were black and the tops of the rear cushions were the same. The trailer had the stale smell of cigarettes and mold. He was sure the roof leaked.

“Mind if I smoke?” asked Dalton, hoping the smell would be overcome.

“Sure,” said Romona, pushing a butt filled ashtray he direction. “Can I get one too?”

Dalton handed her a cigarette.

“Ms. Farmer…” Dalton began.

“You can call me ‘Ro’, everyone does.”

“OK, ‘Ro,’ I’m from Silerville and I’m investigating some occurrences there. In my investigation I came across some information. Is it correct that you gave up a child for adoption?”

Romona’s eyes began to tear. “Yes, yes I did. I’m so sorry.”

Dalton ignored her emotion.

“Do you know what became of that child?”

“No,” she lied, “I have no idea.” Romona, despite her flaws, was a convincing liar.

“And it’s my understanding you kept one of the twins, is that correct?”

“Yes, my Ricky. He’s my pride and joy. Mamaw Eddie wanted me to give him up as well, but I kept him.”

“I see, and where is Ricky now? Do you know?”

“He’s got hisself a girl and they lives over at Cabin Creek. I don’t know if they’s home, though. I ain’t heard from them in a week. That’s not unusual or nothin’, we isn’t close like we was.”

“Ro, now I need to ask you a difficult question.” Romona stiffened. “The birth certificate doesn’t mention the father’s name. Do you know who the father was?”

Romona’s eyes became a flood and her chin puckered and quivered. Dalton took that as a yes.

“I need to find him, it’s important. I need you to tell me his name.”

“I guess it ain’t matter now,” replied Romona, trying to talk through her tears, “he ain’t got a wife or youngun any more. He’s an important man, and all those years ago having babies with me, well, would have ruined his life.”

“Who is he, Romona?”

“His name is Richard Langston.”

 


* Kentucky’s Last Frontier, Henry P. Scalf, 1966, p. 142ff

 

 


Resurrection 67

This is a chapter of the book I am writing for NaNoWriMo. If you want to read it from the start, click here for the chapter index.

Sunday Night

It was two hours before the officer returned to retrieve J.W. for his phone call. He had been too dazed by the events to even notice the guard’s name plate during the intake, but now he noted his name was Mealor.

“C’mon Reeves.” Ordered Mealor.

Reeves got up and followed Mealor. Mealor sat him at a desk in the room behind the bulletproof reception window. There was a landline phone on the desk.

“Who can I call?” asked Reeves sheepishly.

“You can call whoever the hell you want, just make it count. You only get one.” This wasn’t true, people arrested in Kentucky are allowed to make a reasonable number of calls, typically to family and attorney. Reeves was now law enforcement’s special project. He wasn’t going to get preferential treatment or even typical treatment, they were planning to make it as hard on him as possible.

He wanted to call Suzanna. He needed to. He had no clue what her parent’s number was, not having to remember numbers was both the blessing and curse of cell phones.

“Can I get my cell phone so I can look up a number?” Reeves asked Mealor.

Mealor just threw down the tiny Silerville phone book. “There ya go.”

J.W. considered protest then thought better of it. He called him parent’s phone.

“Oh, John, we have been so worried about you. We came down to the jail to see you as soon as we heard, but they refused. Said it wasn’t ‘visiting hours.'” Magnolia was supportive, but J.W. could hear the fear in her voice.

“Mom, I don’t know what to do. I need an attorney. They think I killed a police officer. I need you to call Suze, I don’t have her parent’s number with me and they won’t let me use my cell.”

“Oh, honey, I already called her. She wanted to come home right away, but with everything going on your daddy and I thought it best if she stayed there until we knew more. You might have been killed. She’s worried sick about you, we all are. What happened? How can they think you killed someone?”

“I have no idea. Mom, can you and Dad help me get an attorney?”

“Your father already called Ray White,” Ray White was a prominent criminal attorney in Silerville, and Judge White’s cousin. “He said he would be out to talk with you shortly.”

“I have no idea how I can pay him.”

“Now, your father and I have some money set back. We’ll make sure he gets paid.”

“Can you tell Suze that I’m alright and that I love her and Claire? This has got to be torture for them.”

“I will, I’ll call her right now.”

Mealor was looking over at Reeves, tapping his finger to the non-existent watch on his wrist.

“Mom, I have to go, they want me to get off the phone. I love you, tell Dad I love him.”

“I will honey, be careful. We’ll get you out of there as soon as we can. We love you.”

J.W. was trying not to cry and Mealor led him back to his cell.

Small town “justice” is not the way it is often pictured in cop dramas. On television and in the movies, there is a judge on call who handles arraignments and bond hearings twenty-four-seven. In the small towns dotting Eastern Kentucky, no such luxury exists. There is one judge, elected by the people, who presides over all the criminal activity. He does not work evenings nor weekends.

If a person gets arrested on a Friday night, they will sit in the White County Jail until at least Monday morning, unless the judge is busy that day. If he is, they’ll be there until he has opportunity to preside over the arraignment.

Justice is also not blind nor impartial. Possibly it is not anywhere, but it is certainly not in Eastern Kentucky. “Justice” is meated out according to the status of the victim and the status of the accused. This was certainly true in J.W.’s case. He was not going to get any favor from the judge, who would be facing election next year.

It was another hour before Mealor summoned J.W. again. “Your attorney’s here.”

He led J.W. to a small room, similar in almost every way to the interrogation room at the police station, down to the acoustic tile walls and ceiling. Mealor sat J.W. down and could hear Roy White in the hall outside, joking with the guards.

White came into the room smiling. “Preacher, I never thought I’d see you in here.”

White and J.W. were acquainted. They both were regulars at the Thursday lunch Kiwanis meeting. The ran in different crowds otherwise. White wasn’t a church going man.

“Well, me either, Ray.”

“OK, let me tell you what I know,” said White, sitting across from J.W. “First, though, has anyone talked to you about Doc?”

“About Doc? No, what’s going on with Doc?”

“J.W., I hate to be the one to break this to you, but he’s been shot as well. It’s not in the news yet, but it will be tomorrow.”

“Someone shot Doc?” This terrible week had just gotten much worse. “Are you sure? He might just be missing. He was up on…”

“Queen Mountain, yeah, I know. They found him up there this morning. He’d been killed, driving your SUV. I’m sorry J.W.”

J.W. felt like he had just been kicked in the stomach for the seventh time today. He grabbed his stomach and doubled over. He began to wretch. It was good he hadn’t had anything to eat.

 

“You OK preacher?” Asked Ray, putting his hand on J.W.’s back. J.W. didn’t answer. The room was spinning.


Resurrection 66

This is a chapter of the book I am writing for NaNoWriMo. If you want to read it from the start, click here for the chapter index.

Anxiety

Sunday evening, Jon Langston was worried. He had seen on the news the shooting of the police officer in Silerville, and how Reeves had been taken in for questioning. He hadn’t heard from Mr. Black for a couple days and it looked to Langston like everything was going to hell.

And he wanted MORE money. A “bonus” Black had called it. He already arranged to have the money wired in the morning, but this all seemed like a sinkhole opening beneath him.

Dick was not doing well. His color was off, he was losing weight. He could barely carry on a conversation he was so tired. He had even quit trying to get dressed and go to his desk. He would just sit in his bedroom in a robe.

If Dick dies while Reeves is still alive, it will cost him millions.

“Fuck,” he said out loud to his empty office.

Jon, like his father, needed to be in control. In their business they both maintained control by giving people specific responsibilities and guidelines, then reaming them out when they messed up. Jon felt he had no control here.

Hell, he couldn’t even call Mr. Black or get a message to him. He had to wait on Black to call him.