Angels and Other Inconveniences.

IMG_5664 resizedAngels and Other Inconveniences
By J. D. H. Thigpen

Tim Gallent met an angel one night and it was the last thing that he wanted. Tim awoke with a start in the night to find a smiling majestic figure standing in the center of his bedroom. His wings barely fit between the modest walls, the shining feathers of which lit up the dark room. The angel did not look at all like what he would have expected. Although his appearance bore some similarity to what men commonly think of when they envision an angel, there was so much more about him than Tim could ever find the words to describe. One of the most striking things about the messenger was that there was a jovial, perhaps even mischievous gleam in his eyes and a great hammer in his hand. Tim was not shocked, afraid, or even excited about his unexpected visitor, but simply aggravated, for he was not an easy man to surprise, or impress, but he was an easy man to annoy.

“I suppose you came to teach me about God?” was all that Mr. Gallent had to say.
The last thing Tim Gallent wanted was a sermon from some celestial being about how he should love God more. He had already tried loving God for years now, and he had grown tired of it. It was not that he had grown to hate God or anything of the kind, it was that he had grown jaded with carrying out His commands, namely loving people. He had done enough. He was a good enough man. He just wanted some time to live his own way for a while. He was exhausted with all of the disappointments and all of the hypocrites, and had come to the place where he could no longer distinguish between his frustration with man and frustration with God. What came next, however, actually did surprise him.

“No,” said the angel, “I came to teach you about man.”

“And how are you going to do that? You’re not even a man yourself.”

“No, but some of my closest friends are. I will grant you the opportunity to see three people alive on the Earth today. Anyone at all.”

At this Tim gave the angel a questioning look, and then answered: “Alright. I would like to meet the greatest man in the world.” It is important to understand that a large reason that Tim Gallent had grown weary in following the Father was because of the people that called themselves His followers. Tim so longed to see great works of faith– blind men seeing, deaf men hearing, dead men walking– but he saw no such things in the church. He studied many great men through their biographies, and could probably recite the names of all the saints from memory, and all his life he had wanted to meet just one truly great man. But each person he trusted eventually came to fail him. Slowly he had let disappointment settle in and had begun to believe that there simply were no great men anymore.

The angel nodded and swung his hammer, destroying the western wall of Tim’s bedroom. Tim fell out of his bed from the shock in a bundle of pillows, sheets, blankets, and limbs. When he looked up he saw that they were in an ugly auto mechanic’s shop just outside of Minneapolis. It was sunset now, and there was a man working underneath an old Dodge Charger. It looked like he was just finishing up. Somehow Tim knew that the man owned the place. After a few final touches, the man came out from under the car, covered in grease, and obviously tired from a long day of work. His face was dirty with black smears, and his hair obviously needed a wash. He was the last one left at the shop, for it was his practice to arrive earliest and leave the latest so his employees could have it easier.

Tim eyed the man, suspiciously. He tried to figure out what in the world could make him so great. It seemed that the man could not see him or the angel, but just went on packing things up to head home for the day. There did not seem to be anything unique about the scene other than it seemed that the man had some clear mental disabilities, probably a drastic case of autism or down syndrome. Tim felt uncomfortable because of this, and gave the angel a pleading glance, asking with his eyes that he could return to his bedroom. The angel did not acknowledge the look, but kept his eyes fixed on the mechanic.

“So you brought me here to see a retarded grease-monkey?” Tim Gallent asked, impatiently.

“You will never be able understand the challenges that this man has overcome. He faces more battles in an hour than you will face in all of your life. Greatness is not found in accomplishments, Mr. Gallent. Greatness is found in faithfulness.”

The mechanic’s shop faded and Tim found himself in his bedroom once again. He breathed a sigh of relief to see that his wall was not at all harmed. Now Tim was curious. Unfortunately, Tim did not at all understand what the angel was trying to tell him. He was altogether disappointed by the angel’s idea of greatness, but he decided he’d give it some more thought later, and was intrigued to see what the angel would say to his next two choices. “Alright. Show me the most beautiful woman in the world.”

The angel raised one eyebrow and said: “I hope you realize it is a bad idea to test an angel. But alright, I’ll play your game.” The angel once again smashed a wall with his hammer, this time the eastern wall, and Tim found himself in a hotel room in New Orleans. It was nighttime and there was a woman sleeping in the queen-sized bed over by the window. The angel nodded, and Tim walked over and slowly pulled the covers back to see the woman’s face.

To Tim’s aggravation he saw the sleeping face of his wife, Grace. She was in New Orleans visiting her parents because her dad was in hospice. Tim felt the first twinge of regret for not going with her. Tim gazed at her face, trying to figure out what the angel meant. He knew she wasn’t the most gorgeous woman out there, physically speaking. She was decently attractive, but she was no super-model. The angel obviously was referring to her heart. Tim did know that Grace had a loving heart, but she definitely had her flaws as well. He knew she was no where near the nicest woman on the planet, at least before she had her coffee in the morning.

“Okay. Why is she the most beautiful woman in the world?”

“She’s the most beautiful woman in the world to you because she’s your wife.”

As the hotel room began to fade, Tim found an odd feeling swelling within him, no much more than a feeling, something more permanent and more difficult to describe. He was beginning to understand that through his spiritual fatigue, he had lost the joy he once had in his time spent with Grace. A new resolve began to settle inside of him, perhaps the first step to viewing his wife in the way the angel showed him to.

Again Tim found himself in his bedroom, with his eastern wall fully in tact and the angel with his hammer, ready to take out another wall. Tim had no idea what to expect in answer to his last choice, and he was honestly afraid to ask. He almost chose  something else, but knew he would never forgive himself if he did not find this one thing out. “Okay. Can you show me the most evil man in the world?”

The angel then looked grieved, but not as grieved as Tim Gallent was the next moment. Tim did not notice when it happened exactly, or how it happened, but the angel’s hammer had become a mirror. The mirror dealt him a blow worse than any hammer could have. Tim Gallent saw himself in the mirror. Not just his face, but himself. He saw the man he once was, the man he was now, and the man he would one day be. The angel did not do this to tell him that he was worse than any other man, but simply to show him that the evil within a man is always more monstrous than the evil around him.

The angel looked into his eyes and said: “Your actions echo throughout your soul, defining what sort of person you will become. You may not see how each one changes you, just as an old man may not feel each hair turning white, or feel the impact of each passing day, but just knows that he is old. But one crashes upon another like the waves of the sea, slowly, steadily, defining your character. Crashing, crashing, with nothing to intervene– except for the grace of God.”
Tim Gallent felt the weight of every word the angel spoke and was growing ready to despair over the evil inside of him. He felt the weight of each choice that he had made up to that point. He began to understand that he was not and never would be good enough. He had just come to the verge of self-hatred from seeing no good in himself, when the angel said that beautiful phrase: “except for the grace of God.” It was then that Tim Gallent knew that every man is worth loving because God is love.

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Then One Man Wept. . .

I don’t really know what it is with me and writing short stories lately, but I can’t

seem to write anything else. For those of you that read my last series (see here, here,

here, here, and here) you will find that this one is a good deal darker, and a bit more

heart-rending. I would expound the meaning here, but I’m not entirely sure I even

understand it, so I’ll let it speak for itself. Thanks for reading.


Then One Man Wept. . .
by J. D. H. Thigpen 

Torch McFallon stood on the brink of a

ruined world. Only he could see its

devastation. To all other eyes it was a

utopia. Equality reigned supreme, quarrels were nothing more than things read about

in dusty old books, negative emotions had long since departed, along with feelings of

any kind. All was still, all was calm, but not peaceful. They all lived on, living forms of

destruction, yet too numb to notice.

The tragedy which Torch alone could see was that for the sake of equality they

had lost their excellence. For the sake of security they had surrendered their

freedom and their humanity with it. The pursuit of perfection had led to a sacrifice of

beauty. All was grey, all was silent. They consoled themselves for the loss of their

happiness by remembering that at least they could never again be unhappy.

Torch was not like them. He was unhappy, he was ugly, he was imperfect. But he

was free, he was able to feel, he at least knew what happiness was, and best of all, he

was human. He was alone, but at least he knew what friendship meant. He did not

have much life left in him, but at least he knew what it meant to be alive.

Torch knew that he was not brave, but he also knew that he was the only one left

who knew what bravery meant, and that alone was enough to keep him standing.

And there he stood, alone on the city wall. Below him lay the abyss on one side, and

the unknown on the other. His green tartan, as faded and darkened as it was, blazed

in vibrant colour against the lonely grey world.

He drew out his violin and brought forth one long, sorrowful note. Suddenly the

silent, clockwork movement of those beneath him halted, consumed in deafening

silence. The perfect, emotionless eyes moved as one, attracted to the voice of the

violin.

Torch played on, confronting them with beauty. The wave of sound broke upon

darkened minds, painfully reminding them what they had surrendered. The music

broke what remained of their hearts, and showed them that they had lost their

humanity.

Torch McFallon’s final song was unlike any that had gone before it, and there shall

never be another like it. Such glorious imperfection, majesty, and audacity, mingled

with sorrow and hopelessness. Yet the beauty was too much for their twisted souls to

bear. So they rose up, all with one accord, and they killed him.

Torch’s light went out, the music stopped, the violin fell. Then one man wept.

Then another, then another, until they realized the horror of what they had done. As

the tears fell from their eyes, they thanked Torch McFallon, for his sacrifice had

made them human again.

The End.

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Strangers.


Well, here is the last of my morality tales for the time being.  I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. This one has special significance to me. It is actually based off of a song that my brother wrote about a person that put an ad in the newspaper looking for a coffee companion. Mike asked me to write a story for his song in exchange for him writing a song for one of my stories. Here’s the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKAqzRw2qIQ&feature=share


And just for good measure, here’s a shameless plug for his facebook page. You should like it. https://www.facebook.com/doubtfulsound  Read the story, listen to the song, and let me know what you think. Hope you all have a wonderful week.

Strangers
by J. D. H. Thigpen

    There once was a lonely man named Richard Solus. No one knew Richard’s story,

because he never told it to anyone. He thought that no one would want to hear it.

Richard had no friends because he waited for others to seek him out and believed

that the only people worth knowing were the ones that would seek him out. He also

never talked to strangers if he could avoid it. He had convinced himself that he was

indeed an island, regardless of what any of the poets said.

Richard lived on, year after year, content in his isolation. He had a nice house and

made the best watches in the business and that was enough for him. Interactions that

would not yield profit were an absurdity to him. Whenever coworkers invited him for

a pint, he grew nervous and found an excuse to serve as a cordial refusal. In his mind,

time spent socializing was nothing short of a wasted opportunity.

The lonesome watchmaker went on in this way until one golden morning in June.

On that bitter, but beautiful, morning he sat in the office of his physician and listened

quietly as he was told that a potentially lethal tumour had grown within him. The grey

walls, furnished only with a calendar and a painting of a sailboat, seemed to crowd

around him as though observing his reaction. He cursed the sunny day, which seemed

all the more irreverent simply because it was beautiful. Beauty itself seemed

loathsome to him at that moment.

Richard sat stricken with disbelief, half angry at the world for not taking the time

to mourn for him, or even notice him, and half too broken to care. In a moment he

discovered that all he really wanted was a friend to share his last moments with. But

alas, he did not know where to start, for he had no one left whom he had not pushed

away, and talking to a stranger seemed impossible for him.

After several failed efforts at reconnecting with former friends, Richard placed an

ad in the newspaper out of desperation. He needed someone, anyone, to share his

thoughts with, just a person to listen to him. The ad was just asking for a companion

to have a cup of coffee with him. His loneliness had found no other outlet, and he

prayed, perhaps for the first time that decade, that this last try would not fail him.

At last, after a week of waiting, a man by the name of Scrubs responded. They

were to meet on the 3rd of August, in a small-town coffee shop nearby. Even though

it was only a few blocks from where he lived, Richard had never set foot inside of it.

There were so many things that Richard had never done. For a man that had lived

such a long time, Mr. Solus had done very little living, but now he was almost ready

to live again.

When the day came, Richard was ready, although nervous to the core. He enjoyed

the walk to the coffee shop in the wet fog, and thought about where he would begin.

The building was aged, and quaint, painted a deep shade of blue, with large windows.

It was the very sort of place he would have disliked only a month ago, but now felt

himself drawn towards. He let the anticipation sweep over him, breathed deeply, let

out a wry smile, and grasped the old brass door handle. He went inside and at last

understood that if you never talk to strangers, you will never make any friends at all.

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The Boy Who Was Misunderstood


This story is rather special to me partly because it took a good deal longer to develop than the rest and because I visited an assisted living home the day after I completed it. Understanding what made the Greatest Generation so great is a treasure left undiscovered by most of us today. As this series heads to its conclusion, I hope you find the chance to take the time and reflect on life and reach out to someone you normally wouldn’t think about. One more to go, until further notice.

The Boy Who Was Misunderstood
by J. D. H. Thigpen 


There once was a boy named Thom Glumb. Thom was a typical

rebellious teenager, right down to the unsavory trousers and tattered

skate-shoes. Poor young Thom was convinced that he was a loner and

had therefore pushed away those that actually did want to know him.

He had decided that he was misunderstood and proceeded to make

himself difficult to understand.

So it was for Thom’s highschool years. He slowly replaced his real

friends with people that he thought were ‘cool’ because they knew how

to enjoy themselves with a little help from profanity and stimulants. He

lost sight of his grades. He quit his job, because corporations were no

longer in vogue. He found a like-minded girlfriend and tried to convince

himself that she made him happy.

Life went on in this manner until one brisk morning in September.

The rain clouds had gathered in droves and the aspen trees had

abandoned their leaves. The day seemed to mirror what Thom felt in

the pit of his heart. That was the morning that Mr. Glumb threatened

to discipline Thom with the only thing that held any weight in Thom’s

mind: his car.

At his wife’s request, Mr. Glumb told Thom that he could keep his

keys only if he agreed to visit his grandfather at the assisted living

home once a week. Reluctantly Thom consented and set about it the

next day. In spite of all his faults, Thom kept his promises and therefore

actually did go to see old Father Glumb. And he was all the better for it.

The old man had a wry smile which seemed to say to Thom that here

was a man that had weathered too many hardships to take life too

seriously anymore. Thom was surprised to find that an aged relative

could be sarcastic, and, half against his will, took a liking to him almost

instantly. The conversation on their first visit was so invigourating that

Thom was actually eager to visit again the next week. Father Glumb

made him feel valuable, and never let him forget that he had the

potential to be a good man.

It was not long before Thursdays were Thom’s favourite days of

the week. Gradually the conversations became deeper and shifted

from Thom doing most of the talking and Father Glumb listening

intently, to Thom eagerly listening to stories from Father Glumb’s life.

Thom became intensely curious as to what had made Father Glumb

into the man that he was.

The more Thom learned about his grandfather, the more he began

to realize that in his frenzy to make people see his point of view he

had lost sight of the virtue of listening. When at last the day came

for Father Glumb to make acquaintance with his Master, whom he

had served all of his days, Thom found that his grief had given way

to a desire to be the sort of man Father Glumb had always told him

that he was. At last Thom knew that it is better to understand than

to be understood.

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The Boy Who Loved Too Much.

The next in the series of my didactic parables. This one is intended to be a companion story to Stronghart. I hope you find yourself blessed by it.

The Boy Who Loved Too Much

by J. D. H. Thigpen
 

     There once was a boy that loved too much. His

name was Jimmy Scrubs. The problem with poor

young Scrubs was that he loved so many people with so much of his heart that he

just could not find the strength to keep up with it. He was actually in quite an agony

because he could never fully express the love which threatened to burst inside of

him. He knew too many people to whom his heart was drawn.

 

     So great was his love that he wanted to be all things to all people.

He wanted to be the son of every disappointed father, the brother of

every bullied child, the husband to every lonely girl, the friend to

every wayward soul. But of course this could never be.

 

     So distraught over his inner tension was Jimmy that one day he

decided that it would be better for him to love no one than to love

everyone without hope. Yet in order to do this he knew that he must

leave all those around him, for Jimmy could not help but love

everyone. So it was that Jimmy Scrubs ran away.

 

     He went far abroad to foreign lands with names he could barely

pronounce. He wandered over mountain streams and wooded glens.

He passed through crowded cities and desolate wastelands. Yet all

the while he could not escape the consuming love inside of him,

which frustration and lack of expression had almost corrupted into

hate. The agonizing love drove him on and on. Pursued by the

relentless passion he felt for humanity he continued to flee. For

years he wandered, careful lest he should form attachments, till at

last he had spent all his strength in flight.

 

     At last he could do no more but to sit down by a grand old

oak tree and listen to what his Maker had to say. The silent voice

of the Master spoke softly to his heart and said: “Dear child, you

have not loved them too much, but Me too little. Love Me and I will

show you how to love them.” At last Jimmy Scrubs knew what it

meant to love.

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The Boy Without a Heart.

I liked the idea of posting my short morality stories on my blog, so I decided to make it a mini-series. Here’s the next one in the series. Hope you enjoy it.

Stronghart
by J. D. H. Thigpen

There once was a boy who was born without a

heart. His name was Nicolas Stronghart. He was not

born lacking any essential organs. In fact, he was

quite well equipped in matters of physicality. He was,

however, lacking in regards to love. He felt a great emptiness inside of him. That is

not to say that he was not a Christian man, for he was, in fact, a pastor. Yet still he

lacked a heart.

Nicolas was blessed with a blossoming mega-church under his leadership, a good

marriage, and two sweet little daughters. He had also accumulated a large amount of

earthly riches to bolster his heavenly ones. He had, as some might call it, “his best life

now.” But he had had not found love.

He sought for love in his marriage, yet he was disappointed. That is not to say his

wife, April, did not love him, but simply that the void which had replaced his heart

remained unfilled. He sought for love from his friends, yet was left desolate. Though

he had more best friends than most people had friends they were still not enough. No

relationship was enough for Nicolas. He tried to fill the emptiness with great

vacations, material possessions, and thrilling experiences, yet nothing satisfied.

All of Nic’s searching ended on one night in December. The snow had gathered

heavily on the window-sill, the fire blazed in vibrant tones of gold and crimson and all

seemed right in Pastor Stronghart’s comfortable little world. Then came the

phonecall.

He was delighted to answer to the voice of his sister, Noelle, until he learned of the

reason of her calling. Their father had been taken ill and had been admitted into a

hospice. The difficulty with this was that Nicolas did not love his father, but now he

felt the need to do so.

Nicolas’ father was a good man, and he respected him, but he did not love him.

This is because he father had never so much as said “I love you” to any of his

children. Yet something happened when Nicolas entered the dismal room of his dying

father.

They talked, they cried, they laughed, and the hours passed them by. At last, all in

one moment, all of Nicolas’ religious study, sermons, and Biblical knowledge became

worth something and came out in one phrase: “Dad, I love you.” Suddenly, the boy

born without a heart became a man rightly known as Stronghart. At last dear Nicolas

understood that it is better to love than to be loved.

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A Story I Very Nearly Forgot About.

Well, so much for being better about maintaining my blog. Ah well. Let’s try this again. I just wanted to kick off 2012 with something a little different. This is a short story that I wrote in my pocket notebook on a whim a while back when I was sitting alone at a coffee shop because a friend forgot about our meeting. It’s pathetically sentimental and a far cry from my best work, but there is certainly a quality about it that conveys something special. What you get out of it is up to you, I suppose, though my intentions behind it were mainly to convey the fact that there are more important things than being remembered. God bless and I hope you all have a great year.

A Story I Very Nearly Forgot About

By J. D. H. Thigpen

There once was a boy that was forgotten. That is not to say that no one

remembered him, but simply that people had a tendency to forget about him.

I would tell you his name, but I am afraid I have forgotten it. But at least I have

remembered his story. It went something rather like this.

Forgotten Tom, as we will call him for narrative purposes, was like any other boy

living in any small town. He had good parents, a good school record, and he was even

very talented at football. His only problem was that, somehow, he was easy to forget.

Of course this frustrated him sometimes. He did not mind so much when his

friends forgot about his birthday, or when girls forgot about meeting him for dinner;

he was used to that sort of thing. It was more frustrating, however, when the

announcer forgot to call his name at his highschool graduation, or when he missed his

chance to get into the NFL because the scouts had forgotten who he was.

So it was for Forgotten Tom. Yet life went on. He gathered a good deal of

achievements under his belt. He graduated with honours from Johns Hopkins

University (that announcer forgot his name too). He was the first doctor to perform a

certain type of heart surgery (I cannot remember the name of it, I’m afraid). He was’

a fifth degree blackbelt in karate. He would have been a best-selling author, had his

co-author not conveniently forgotten to add his name on the final manuscript.

He became a very impressive person, yet still people tended to forget him.

So it was that poor Forgotten Tom came to the end of his long and accomplished

life. There he lay, forgotten in a hospital bed, wishing that just one person would

remember him, when a young woman whom he did not recognize came to visit.

“I don’t know if you remember me” she said, “but I will always remember what

you did for me.”

She was the baby he had performed his first surgery on. Tom smiled at the

beautiful girl whose life he had once saved and said: “I remember you.” At last

Forgotten Tom realized that it is better to remember than to be remembered.

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