WINGSPREAD Ezine for March, 2021


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

March, 2021                                James P. Hurd    

Please forward or share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

  • New story: Jeff Landry: Serial Killer
  • Puzzler of the month
  • Writer’s Corner

*********************

 New story: Jeff Landry: Serial Killer

One of my most interesting students was Jeff Landry. He was the one who threatened to kill me. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was teaching anthropological theory at Bethel University—10 students, all in their early twenties. All except Jeff Landry who was in his early thirties.

The first day Jeff walked in, he took a sat in the back and slouched down in his chair with his motorcycle-booted feet splayed out in front of him. Hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. Black, disheveled hair hanging down over dark glasses. Looked as if he was running security for the mafia. Like a person whose anger boiled just below the surface. Intimidation behind dark glasses. . . . To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2021/03/23/jeff-landry-serial-killer/

(*Please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

New puzzler for March:

A chicken and a half can lay an egg and a half in a day and a half. 

The question is very simple: How long will it take two chickens to lay thirty-two eggs?

Answer to February’s Puzzler:

Recall you had a series of numbers:

Two, nine, seven, nine, 12—That series of numbers represents the number seven.

Three, five, zero—That group of numbers equals two.

So how would you write the number 10? That’s the question.

———————————————-

Bill, Eldon, and Sam all submitted very creative answers! (Some of them were correct. 😊)

All we’re doing is substituting each of the numbers—the 2, 9, 7, 9, 12—for the letters of the word “seven.” So above, 2 equals s, 9 equals e, 7 equals v, and so forth.

In the second set, 3, 5, 0 equals “t, w, o.”

So “ten” would be: t=3, e=9, and n=12, giving 3, 9, 12.

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  

How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month: Denouement:

This is the outcome; how things worked out. In Sherlock Holmes, for example, we learn who the bad guy was, what happened to the characters, and the motive of the crime—this is the denouement.

Tip of the month: Not only should your novel have a plot arc; every chapter should have a plot arc—rising tension, crisis, denouement. Readers want something to happen, something about to happen, tension that drive the story forward.

You’re right: the world is really a scary place!  Just look at these headlines:

  • Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
    (See if that works any better than a fair trial!)  
  • War Dims Hope for Peace
    (I can see where it might have that effect!)
     
  • If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile  
    (Ya think?)  
  • Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures  
    (Who would have thought!) 
  • Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain;  Police Suspect Homicide  
    (They may be on to something!)  
  •   Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges 
    (You mean there’s something stronger than duct tape?)
  • Man Struck By Lightning:  Faces Battery Charge
    (Ouch!)
  • New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
    (Weren’t they fat enough?)  
  • Kids Make Nutritious Snacks  
    (Do they taste like chicken?)
  • Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half  
    (Chainsaw Massacre all over again!)

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title)

Sean loses his father, his best girlfriend, his life dream, and finally, his faith. But how can he be a good atheist, especially when he’s stuck at Torrey Bible Institute? He can’t see it, but grace is coming. . . .

Subscribe free to this Ezine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to this WINGSPREAD ezine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread Ezine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and put in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Jeff Landry, Serial Killer

One of my most interesting students was Jeff Landry, the one who threatened to kill me. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was teaching anthropological theory at Bethel University—10 students, all in their early twenties. All except Jeff Landry who was in his early thirties.

The first day Jeff walked in, he took a seat in the back and slouched down in his chair with his motorcycle-booted feet splayed out in front of him. Hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. Black, disheveled hair hanging down over dark glasses. Looked as if he was running security for the mafia. Like a person whose anger boiled just below the surface. Intimidation behind dark glasses.

An older student often enlivens a class. Jeff was like this. He didn’t talk much, didn’t fraternize with the other students. But he asked questions, good questions. He showed himself a skeptic—never smiling as he offered humorless critiques of my ideas. And he had this strange interest in the motivation of serial killers. He said he wanted to do a sociology major, which we did not offer at the time. I advised him, “Take the sociocultural major and take lots of sociology classes.”

One day he told me, “Dr. Hurd, we’ve gotta talk about Postmodernism.” My heart sank. Not only did I not want to teach Postmodernism; I knew almost nothing about it. But I grudgingly prepped a lecture on the subject.

After he graduated, Jeff pursued a Ph.D. in sociology. His thesis topic: serial killers—their methods and motivations. Completely focused. Over the years, he would email me. I was puzzled why he kept up a correspondence with me, but I tried to give him helpful suggestions for his graduate studies.

He had some run-ins with his instructors and finally stalled when he had to write his Ph.D. thesis because he kept clashing with his thesis adviser.

I was sitting at my office computer late one night when I received a short email from him: “I can show you how to strangle a man with a piece of piano wire.”

My spine chilled. Jeff was like this—straight, direct, and he apparently still had this obsession with serial killers.

I emailed my colleague, Harley Schreck. He said he’d also received an email from Jeff Landry which read: “I can show you how to strangle James Hurd with a piano wire.”

I freaked, and called Bethel security. They told me to call the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff came out. I was surprised he did not seem panicked. Maybe people called in death threats every day, I thought. “Look,” he said, “contact Jeff and ask him to explain his email to you.” Then he disappeared out into the night.

But I was afraid to contact Jeff. I couldn’t concentrate on writing my lecture, so I gave up, and decided to head home. Walking out in the dark toward my car, I was looking to the left and right. How do you protect yourself against a vague threat, I wondered? I had considered asking security to accompany me, but reasoned that only women did that. I walked a little faster, trying to stay under the lights that illuminated the parking lot. I was relieved when I reached my car. I checked the back seat, checked under the car, then got in and drove home.

The next day I told Harley about the sheriff. He said, “Oh, Jim; I’m really sorry! Landry never sent me an email; it was a joke!” Harley was like that. Random jokes. He was really apologetic.

In later years, my study of Postmodernism transformed my thinking about theory and even about understanding the Bible. Jeff was the one who pushed me into it.

So, that was the day I survived Jeff Landry’s threat to kill me.

WINGSPREAD Ezine for February, 2021


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

February, 2021                                             James Hurd    

Please forward, and share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

  • New story: The Middle Passage
  • Words to Ponder
  • How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying
  • Puzzler of the month
  • Writer’s Corner, with a new contest
  • Wingspread E-zine subscription information

*********************

 New story: The Middle Passage

I survived three years at Orange Intermediate School, but I resent that they forced me to do puberty at the same time.

The first day, l I walked past Jimmy Creech in the hall—a bellowy eighth grader, bereft of grace, who stood six foot five. Creech wasn’t the sharpest needle in the pincushion–it probably took him two hours to watch 60 minutes. But here he came, walking like the Fonz, with a gaggle of admirers following.

I must have said something like, “Hey there,” or “What’s up?”

Creech paused, and turned: “What’d you say?

“Nothin’”

“Come ’ere kid.”

I came.

“Turn around, kid.”

I turned. . . .

To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2021/02/19/the-middle-passage-2/

(*Please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

Things to ponder:

If the world had a population of one hundred, the following would be true:

11 are in Europe
5 are in North America
9 are in South America
15 are in Africa
60 are in Asia

49 live in the countryside
51 live in cities

12 speak Chinese
5 speak Spanish
5 speak English
3 speak Arabic
3 speak Hindi
3 speak Bengali
3 speak Portuguese
2 speak Russian
2 speak Japanese
62 speak their own language.

77 have their own houses.
23 have no place to live.

21 are over-nourished
63 can eat full meals.
15 are under-nourished
1   ate her last meal, but did not make it to the next meal.

For 48, the money spent on living for one day is less than US$2.

87 have clean drinking water
13 either lack clean drinking water or have access to a water source that is
polluted.

75 have mobile phones
25 do not.

30 have internet access
70 do not have conditions to go online.


7 received university education
93 did not attend college.

83 can read
17 are illiterate.

33 are Christians
22 are Muslims
14 are Hindus
7 are Buddhists
12 are other religions
12 have no religious beliefs.

26 will live less than 14 years
66 will die between 15 – 64 years of age
8 will live to over 65 years old.

If you have your own home,
eat full meals and drink clean water,
have a mobile phone,
can surf the internet, and have gone to college,
you are in the miniscule, privileged lot (in the less than 7% category).

Puzzler of the month:

February puzzler: number translation

Here are two series of numbers and their equivalents:
Two, nine, seven, nine, 12—That series of numbers equals the number seven.
Three, five, zero—That group of numbers equals the number two.

So, how would you write the number 10? That’s the question.

Answer to the January puzzler

Recall the three boxes that sit on a table, inside one of which is a picture of the fair Rowena. It is the job of the White Knight to figure out – without opening them – which one has the treasured picture.

The gold box says, “Rowena’s picture is in this box.” The silver box says, “The picture is not in this box.” The lead box says, “The picture is not in the gold box.” Only one of the statements is true. Which box holds the picture?

So, two of the statements are false only if the silver box has her picture in it. Therefore, it’s in the silver box. If it’s in the silver box:

The gold statement is false
The silver statement is false
The lead statement is true

Yeah, White Knight!

 Best black-and-white movie you’ve ever seen:

That one’s easy for me—Casablanca. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who owns a nightclub in Casablanca, discovers his old flame Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) is in town with her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Laszlo is a famed resistor, and with Germans on his tail, Ilsa knows Rick can help them get out of the country, but if he does, he will lose her forever.

What’s your favorite black-and-white and why? (I’ll publish these in the next WINGSPREAD.)

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  

How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Writers’ Corner

Tip of the month: Your whole novel, and each chapter, should have a “plot arc.” The action should rise, climax, then quickly reach its denouement.

Word of the Month:  QAnon

A popular conspiracy theory, started by a social media item posted by the mysterious “Q,” which asserts that an international pedophile ring is conspiring to bring down the 45th President of the United States. Many people still believe it.

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title)

Sean loses his father, his best girlfriend, his life dream, and finally, his faith. How can he be a good atheist, especially when he’s stuck at Torrey Bible Institute? He can’t see it yet, but grace is coming. . . .

Subscribe free to this Ezine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to this WINGSPREAD ezine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread Ezine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and put in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

The Middle Passage

I survived three years at Orange Intermediate School, but I resented that they forced me to do puberty at the same time.

The first day, l I walked past Jack Cratch in the hall—a bellowy eighth grader, bereft of grace, who stood six foot five. Cratch wasn’t the sharpest needle in the pincushion–it probably would tak him two hours to watch 60 minutes. But here he came, walking like the Fonz, with a gaggle of admirers following.

I must have said something like, “Hey there,” or “What’s up?”

Cratch paused, and turned —“What’d you say?

“Nothin’”

“Come ’ere kid.”

I came.

“Turn around, kid.”

I turned.

He ripped a piece of paper out of my notebook and wrote on it, then scotch-taped the paper to my back. “You take that off and I’ll beat your face in.” Then he walked away. The paper read “I AM THE SCUM OF THE EARTH.”

I wore the sign the whole morning of my first day at intermediate school. Finally, a teacher saw it, ripped it off, and asked, “Who did this to you?”

“I dunno,” I lied. From that day on I realized that I was not the most important person on campus.

After lunch, the boys would sort of mill around the playground or huddle in tight little knots. Cliff was squat, muscular, a football type of guy. John played first base in our pickup games. Dan had a crewcut and a waxed ducktail. These were the noble ones—they drank from the Source. That year I invited them to my birthday party—miniature golfing at Shady Acres in Long Beach. They never invited me back. I learned then that friendship isn’t something you can buy.

I got a crash course in fashion when I noticed these same boys wearing button-down shirts (two lapel buttons, and a collar button which you left unbuttoned) and perma-pressed slacks with a little cloth belt buckle on the back. Or they wore Levi’s. If a kid came to school with a new pair of Levi’s, they would wrestle him to the ground and tear off the little red Levi’s tag on the back. I didn’t wear Levi’s. My parents provided well for us, but we weren’t rich, so my mom found a second-hand tee-shirt somewhere that said “Orange Grammar School” on the front (an obsolete name for Orange Intermediate). I only wore it once.

I learned more vocabulary on the playground than I did in the classroom. We would say “Oh, fat,” “spas out” [a mockery of spastics, whose gestures we would perfectly imitate], or we would call someone “brain” [mocking his stupidity]. My linguistic education was bilingual—I learned dirty words from the Mexicans, even though I didn’t know what they meant.

Playground talk often shifted to the second gender, and soon my hormones began warring against my Fundamentalist Christian morals. All the girls at Orange Intermediate wore dresses, or a blouse and skirt. The boys would look up their legs when they climbed the steel stair steps to the second floor, longing to pick the low-hanging fruit. Sometimes when a girl leaned down at the drinking fountain, a boy would come up behind and snap her bra strap.

But I loved Shirley—blonde, beautiful and burgeoning—the daughter of the owner of Orange Furniture Store. In second grade she was my first girlfriend, but I hardly dared speak to her now in intermediate school. At high school graduation several years later, I played clarinet in the marching band from where I watched her sitting on the stage playing the piano, flouting school clothing regulations with her low-cut, strapless dress.

At intermediate school I learned about the criminal justice system. The principal was the ultimate threat, the face of justice that was supposed to motivate good behavior. Once during lunch hour, some of us were playing handball against the side of the stuccoed building instead of participating in the required softball games. The principal told the Phy Ed coach, Mr. Elmwood, to deal with it. He was a proud man, bronzed, muscular, and serious as a heart attack. Talked as if someone had put sand in his toothpaste. He took three of us to the woodshop where he found the wooden paddle with the holes drilled in it. He told me, “Grab your ankles.” I upended, wondering how hard he would hit. He hit. The single, hard whack brought tears to my eyes but I refused to sob.

At Orange Intermediate, I just felt weird. Later I learned that “feeling weird” is common for pubescent males, but at the time I was convinced it was because I was a Fundamentalist. The kids at school came in only three categories: Unchurched, Catholic, and Mainline Modernist (read liberal, “worldly”). I didn’t fit any of these categories. As far as I knew, I was a group of one, a spiritual orphan.

My Fundamentalist pastor told me I had to separate myself from the contagion of the world. At intermediate school I saw the world all around me—worldly dress, worldly language, worldly activities. I felt compelled to “witness” about my faith, speaking Jesus-words to my unchurched classmates. I refused to participate in square dancing. At graduation, they were all doing the Bunny Hop in the auditorium while Howard and I sat in the lobby playing chess. Howard, the supreme nerd, once asked our math teacher if she knew how a right triangle is like a frozen dog? (Answer: “perp-in-di-cooler.”) I didn’t like Howard. I didn’t like myself. We were both nerd-heads.

I would stand mute while my friends discussed the movies they’d seen. Our church was anti-movie, so I never entered Orange Theater. And when my history teacher talked about early hominids and evolution, I had to tell him, “I don’t believe that. The Bible doesn’t mention it.”

He told me, “I don’t believe it either, but we have to teach it.”

I did not like my body. Looking in the mirror I would think, My eyebrows are too low! In the locker room, I discovered a new athletic appliance—the jockstrap. I didn’t even know boys needed one, but I self-consciously climbed into it. Other boys were less self-conscious—Mike would pull his on, stretch one of the straps over his shoulder, then look around and ask innocently, “How do you get into this thing, anyway?”

My most precious memory of the locker room is Billy, a guy who would steal pennies off a dead man’s eyes. One day he turned from the adjacent urinal, directed his appliance, and peed on me. A little yellow river trickled down my leg and onto the floor.

Some days, Orange Intermediate seemed the last refuge of the damned, but looking back, I see that most of my pubescent learning took place there outside the classroom—learning how to deal with adversity, how to relate to “worldly” people, how to be “in the world but not of it,” how to respect women, how to share faith, and how to have compassion for all people, even Billy the Bully.

I began to realize that I was a prig, a “holier than thou” person. The kids at Orange Intermediate did their best to squeeze the prigness out of me. But I felt more than different—I felt insecure, with an unfulfilled passion to conform. I failed to fit in. (Much later, I discovered that most middle schoolers feel that way.)

But perhaps most important, Orange Intermediate taught me that I was not the fourth member of the Trinity.

WINGSPREAD Ezine for January, 2021

“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”
January, 2021                                              James Hurd    

Please forward, and share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

New poem: Longing for Life

How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying

Puzzler of the month

Writer’s Corner, with a request for feedback

Wingspread E-zine subscription information

*********************

Longing for Life

Our daily joys make life complete,

But quested joys oft’ seem more sweet.

Not only pilots lust the sky,

But groundlings who will never fly.

The healthy take each day for granted;

Dying souls count each day blessed.

Gluttons scorn their daily bread . . . .

To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2021/01/20/longing-for-life-2/

(*Please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  

How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Puzzler for January:

Three Boxes, Two Lies

The Fair Maiden Rowena wishes to wed. And her father, the Evil King Berman, has devised a way to drive off suitors. He has a little quiz for them, and here it is. It’s very simple:

Three boxes sit on a table. The first is made of gold, the second is made of silver, and the third is made of lead. Inside one of these boxes is a picture of the fair Rowena. It is the job of the White Knight to figure out – without opening them – which one has her picture.

Now, to assist him in this endeavor there is an inscription on each of the boxes. The gold box says, “Rowena’s picture is in this box.” The silver box says, “The picture is not in this box.” The lead box says, “The picture is not in the gold box.” Only one of the statements is true. Which box holds the picture? (Answer next month)

Answer to last month’s puzzler:

You recall the story—The Alaskan explorers had a plane with a placard on the instrument panel that said, “Do not attempt to start the engine with oil temperature below minus forty degrees Fahrenheit.”

When the pilot checked the oil temperature gauge, he discovered it was broken. As luck would have it, this being an international kind of team, all of their instruments were in Centigrade. Unfortunately, nobody could remember the formula for converting Centigrade to Fahrenheit.

Skip, who had been carefully looking over the engine for the last couple of days, emerged from the inky shadows of the dimly lit Quonset hut. The others asked, “Do you know the formula for converting Centigrade to Fahrenheit?” He said, “I don’t need no stinkin’ formulas. But I know you can start the engine. It will be all right.”

Sure enough, they started the engine up, and it was fine.

The question is, how did Skip know they could safely start the engine?

 ——————————

What Skip knew, even though he didn’t know the formula, is that minus 40 Centigrade equals minus 40 Fahrenheit (the only temperature where this is so). If the temperature was above minus 40 Centigrade, it had to be above minus 40 Fahrenheit, and they could start the engine.

Writers’ Corner

Invitation: What would you like to see in these WINGSPREAD Ezines? I will seriously consider your suggestions at hurd@usfamily.net. And, as always, please point people to the WINGSPREAD webpage: jimhurd.com    Thanks!

Question for you: What’s the best black-and-white movie you’ve ever seen, and why? (I’ll publish your answers next month.)

Tip of the month: Have “beta readers” read your draft. These are non-professional people, ideally writers, who will read a draft and give you honest feedback. Accept their ideas and critiques humbly. We all need beta readers, and perhaps we could reciprocate by reading some of their stuff in return.

Word of the Month:  Catfishing

A catfish presents themselves on social media, such as Facebook, as someone they’re not (e.g., an old man presenting himself as a young woman). Some people’s social identity is quite distinct from their in-person identity.

Book of the month: Rachel Urquhart, The Visionist. Little, Brown and Company. 2014. A troubled woman embraced by a Shaker community carries a dark secret. Intimate views of Shaker life—the good, the bad, and the ugly. The power of committed community and the human flaws that mar the quest for perfection. (Thanks to Judy Knoll for the suggestion.)

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title)

Sean loses his father, his best girlfriend, his life ambition, and finally, his faith. But how can he be a good atheist, especially when he’s stuck at Torrey Bible Institute? He can’t see it, but grace is coming. . . .

Subscribe free to this Ezine   Click here: https://jimhurd.com/  to subscribe to this WINGSPREAD ezine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread Ezine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and put in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Longing for Life

A poem about unfulfilled dreams. . . .


Our daily joys make life complete,
But quested joys oft’ seem more sweet.

Not only pilots lust the sky,
But groundlings who will never fly.

The healthy take each day for granted;
Dying souls count each day blessed.

Gluttons scorn their daily bread;
The starving count one dry crust good.

Wives live bored in nuptial bliss;
But single souls seek just one kiss.

The wealthy may discount their gold;
The poor give thanks one coin to hold.

‘Tis not the young rejoice the dawn,
But crones whose lives are almost gone.

Our fulfilled dreams we soon ignore,
But unfulfilled, we quest them more.

God—help us seize each passing hour,
See miracle in tiny flower.

Teach me to treasure all my days,
And fill my heart with thankful praise.

James P. Hurd

WINGSPREAD Ezine for December, 2020


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

December, 2020          James Hurd    

Please forward, and share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

  • New story: “A Strange Day at the Office”
  • Puzzler of the month: Convert or Freeze
  • How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying
  • Writer’s Corner, with a NEW CONTEST!
  • Glorious insults from the past
  • Wingspread Ezine subscription information

*********************

 New story: A Strange Day at the Office

One day Mr. Merton called in sick and put Duane in charge. That would be the day the inmates took over the asylum.

Duane opened his desk drawer and pulled out the bottle. “Myra, get some plastic cups in that drawer over there. Could you pour?” Sean had never tasted alcohol and Torrey Bible Institute prohibited students from drinking, but the pressure of the social occasion pushed him to take a sip. He coughed as the strong liquid slid down his throat. Duane laughed, sitting relaxed with his feet up on the desk, cigarette hanging from his lower lip. Marion came over and sat on his lap. Duane pretended to ignore her but Sean could see he loved it. Sean tried concentrating on his filing, but in vain. The atmosphere turned relaxed, a day of freedom from Mr. Merton. . . .        
To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2020/11/24/a-strange-day-at-the-office/

(*Please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

Puzzler of the month: Convert or Freeze

Roger Meyer sent this puzzler in. (Taken from the radio show, “Car Talk.)

A group of explorers was trapped in Alaska for the winter season. Stuck in the ice and snow, they only had one means of escaping to civilization before spring: an old World War Two airplane with skis, which they could use in the event of an emergency.

The plane had a placard on the instrument panel that said, “Do not attempt to start the engine in temperatures below minus forty degrees Fahrenheit.”

As luck would have it, this being an international kind of team, all of their instruments were in Centigrade. Unfortunately, nobody could remember the formula for converting Centigrade to Fahrenheit.

Skip, who had been carefully looking over the engine for the last couple of days, emerged from the inky shadows of the dimly-lit Quonset hut and said, “I don’t need no stinkin’ formulas. But I know you can start the engine. It will be all right.”

Sure enough, they started the engine up, and it was fine.

The question is, how did Skip know they could safely start the engine?

Last month’s Puzzler: Recall that you walk up to a closed door with three light switches on the wall beside it. The switches control three light bulbs in a room on the other side of the door. Once you open the door, you may never touch the switches again. How can you definitively tell which switch is connected to each of the light bulbs?

Answer: We got a winner on this puzzler—Sam!
Here’s the correct answer:

Turn all switches off. Then turn on the first two switches. Leave them on for five minutes. Once five minutes have passed, turn off the second switch, leaving the first switch on. Now go through the door. The light that is still on is connected to the first switch. The light that is still warm is connected to the second switch. The bulb that is cold is connected to the third switch which was never turned on.

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Writers’ Corner

CONTEST FOR YOU! The most important sentence in a story? The first one! Send me one sentence, only one sentence, that you consider a great beginning sentence for a story—one of your own crafting, or, if someone else’s, list their name with it. For example: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities). I will choose the sentence I like best, and send the winner a free copy of my Wingspread memoirs!

Writing tip of the month: Add conflict to your dialogue! Dialogue is boring if the two people talking are of the same mind.

Word of the Month:  PARTICULARITY. This is Sol Stein’s term for drilling down to detail in your descriptions. Instead of “a brown coat,” try “a light brown stadium jacket with a dark stain on the left pocket.” Instead of “dirty windows” try “bleak, gray windows with white, pigeon-limed sills.”

 Book of the month: Sol Stein, Stein on Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies. 1995, St. Martin’s Griffin: New York. The best book on writing I’ve ever read, flat out.

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title)

Sean lost his father, his best girlfriend, his life dream, and was losing his faith. Why was he at Torrey Bible Institute? How could he restructure his life as an atheist? He could not see it, but grace was coming. . . .

Glorious insults from the past

In an exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor, she said, “If you were my husband I’d give you poison,” and he replied, “Madam, if you were my wife, I’d drink it.”

A member of Parliament to Disraeli: “Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.” “That depends, Sir,” said Disraeli, “on whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.”

“He had delusions of adequacy.” – Walter Kerr

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” – Winston Churchill

“A modest little person, with much to be modest about.” – Winston Churchill

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”
– Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”
– William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”
– Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.” – Moses Hadas

“He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.” – Abraham Lincoln

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” – Mark Twain

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” – Oscar Wilde


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A Strange Day at the Office

In February of that long winter of his second TBI year, Sean told the student employment office he was sick of his factory job, so they found him work downtown in an insurance company on the twenty-fifth floor of the Tribune Tower. This job would be very different—lots of contact with people. People, Sean feared, that would be very different from himself.

On his first day of work, Sean ate early lunch at TBI, then walked out through the arch toward downtown. A group of about ten guys who worked at the Federal Reserve Bank streamed in front of him, talking and yelling as they jogged across the intersections, ignoring the traffic lights, zig-zagging between the stopped cars, hopping over hoods. When they would leave the bank later that afternoon, the bank guards would turn their pockets inside out looking for pennies.

Sean turned left on Illinois Street, then walked down Michigan Avenue toward the Chicago River. He stared up at the Tribune Tower, the giant building shrinking him into insignificance. A steel and concrete monolith built in 1925, its thirty-six stories, soared 462 feet high, above its glass façade. A revolving door opened from the street into the lobby. He passed the coffee counter, found the bank of elevators and told the operator, “Twenty-fifth floor.”

Exiting the elevator, he found the huge First Chicago Insurance office suite where the hiring manager waited. “The bulk of our staff works in this main office” he said, “but you’ll work in the smaller office down the hall.” They walked in to see a manager sitting at a large desk inside the glassed-in corner cubicle. He wore a dark business suit, white shirt and tie, and his umbrella hung on a wooden coat stand. “Sean, this is Mr. Merton,” the manager said. “He’ll introduce you to the others.”

Sean shook Mr. Merton’s hand, who pointed and said, “That’s Duane; he’s our junior underwriter. Marion and Myra over there are our office assistants.” They all nodded and smiled. Mr. Merton never smiled. “Myra here will give you a stack of policies to file. The red-tagged folders are active; the others are expired.” Then he walked back into his cage.

Myra helped Sean learn how to organize the slightly-askew, dog-eared folders that hung in the file drawers. He liked Myra immediately—pretty, bombastic, friendly. She lit up the office. He began organizing the bills, receipts, and records of sprinkler damage that Myra had strewn helter-skelter across his desk. He thought, These wrinkled folders wouldn’t inspire much customer confidence.

Mr. Merton kept a clean and organized space. The few times he emerged from his office he would lean against a desk and deliver pep talks to his minions—“If we get these insurance claims organized and wrapped up it’ll put a real feather in all our caps.”

Privately, Duane told Sean, “He means a feather in his cap.”

Duane, tall and darker-skinned and smelling of cologne and tobacco, slicked his black hair back with a careless hand. When he smoked he sucked in his cheeks, languid eyelids drooping over a clenched smile that revealed confident teeth.

Duane loved to flirt with Marion, a slightly-built Catholic girl who would toss her blond hair and blink her big, hazel eyes. She always looked cute in her see-through blouse and tight skirt. Duan confided to Sean, “I like Marion but she’s Catholic and I’m Lutheran, so I don’t know how we could get together.”

One day Mr. Merton called in sick and put Duane in charge. That would be the day the inmates took over the asylum.

Duane opened his desk drawer and pulled out a bottle. “Myra, get some plastic cups in that drawer over there. Could you pour?” Sean had never tasted alcohol and TBI prohibited students from drinking, but the pressure of the social occasion pushed him to take a sip. He coughed as the strong liquid slid down his throat. Duane laughed, sitting relaxed with his feet up on the desk, cigarette hanging from his lower lip. Marion came over and sat on his lap. Duane pretended to ignore her but Sean could see he loved it. Sean tried concentrating on his filing, but in vain. The atmosphere turned relaxed, a day of freedom from Mr. Merton.

Then Myra went crazy. Dear, bubbly Myra, not quite obese but pleasantly plump, long dark hair, black eyes, plenty of lipstick and red fingernail polish, gregarious, owner of a loud, sultry voice, she radiated Eau de Toilette and always brought her fun with her.

Marion told Duane, “Put some music on your radio.” When the music started, Myra stepped up on her chair, then onto the desk, revealing her high heels, plump legs and sheer hose. She flung her arms above her head, swayed her hips, twirled her short dress, and sang a lusty song, her gold bracelets and Star of David earrings swinging in time. Marion and Duane sang and clapped. For Sean, this was a day to remember.

Then the big boss from the main office walked in.

Silence, hung heads, as all returned to work with tails between legs. No one lost their job but the next day Mr. Merton walked into his tiny cubicle, hung up his black overcoat, scarf, and umbrella and then rallied his troops. “People, I’m surprised at this behavior. It casts a shadow on my leadership. You embarrassed me in front of my own boss.” He droned on—lack of maturity and professionalism, black marks, etc. Plainly, the big boss had reamed him out and charged him with castigating his staff. For his part, Sean thought, It was worth it!

Sean’s two jobs couldn’t have been more different. The pie filling job had numbed him. The insurance job felt equally automaton-like but he found himself liking his officemates and felt like he was learning to navigate the human diversity in the huge city.

With her behavior, could Myra be an observant Jew? Sean didn’t think so. And Duane—suave, worldly-wise, sophisticated—did “Lutheran” mean he was born again? And were Catholic girls allowed to sit on Lutheran men’s laps? Sean’s childhood formation made him critical of people, even church-goers, outside of Fundamentalism. He didn’t think Marion or Duane were real Christians. And how could he share his Christian faith with them if he no longer believed it himself? His atheism was getting more and more complicated, presenting more of a risk for him at TBI. His dread intensified.

Wingspread Ezine November, 2020

“Spreading your wings
in a perplexing world”
November, 2020     

Please forward and share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

  • New story
  • Puzzler of the month
  • Writer’s Corner
  • How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying
  • Wingspread E-zine subscription information

*********************

New story: Thanksgiving at Joseph Dvorak’s

 Down Norbert dorm’s hallway lived Joseph Dvorak—a below-average student, unlucky in love, confident and loud—who sucked Sean out of his introspective shell like a vacuum cleaner. Sean rejoiced that people at TBI treated him as a regular person, one of the boys—a new experience for him. One day in November Joseph met Sean in the hall. “Sean, you wanna come to my house for Thanksgiving dinner?”

“I dunno, Joseph. Are you sure your mom wants me?” He felt apprehensive about dinner with a strange “Eastern European” family. . . .

To read more, click here:  https://jimhurd.com/2020/11/02/thanksgiving-feast-at-joseph-dvoraks/

(*Please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

Puzzler of the month:

You walk up to a closed door with three light switches on the wall beside it. The switches control three light bulbs in the room on the other side of the door. Once you open the door, you may never touch the switches again. How can you definitively tell which switch is connected to each of the light bulbs? Answer in next month’s Ezine.

Writers’ Corner

Writer’s tip of the month: Spice up your dialogue with conflict. Examples: “How are you?” “I’m fine, and you?” (Boring . . .) More interesting—“Where have you been?” “None of your business; I don’t want to talk about it.”

Word of the Month:  Gaslighting—making a person question their own memory and intelligence. Example: “Where were you! We agreed to meet on Thursday!” [when actually they had agreed to meet on Tuesday].

 Book of the month: King Lear. William Shakespeare. An aging king sinks into forgetfulness, bitterness and anger, and destroys several people in the process. A great study on parent-child conflict. Be sure to get a version with footnotes to help you with the unfamiliar 16th century English.

Wise Words:

  • I’m always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.
  • I keep some people’s phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
  • I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
  • How many times is it appropriate to say “What?” before you just nod and smile because you still didn’t hear or understand a word they said?
  • I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!
  • Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.
  • Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys, finding their cell phone, and pinning the tail on the donkey. But I’d bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.
  • The first testicular guard, the “Cup,” was used in Hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title)

Sean lost his father, his best girlfriend, his life dream, and now his faith. Why is he at Torrey Bible Institute? How can he restructure his life as an atheist? He can’t see it, but grace is coming. . . .

An important new Bible commentary:

Lost stories of the Bible

Buy James P. Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Subscribe free to this Ezine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to this WINGSPREAD ezine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread Ezine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and put in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Thanksgiving Feast at Joseph Dvorak’s

Down Norbert hallway lived Joseph Dvorak. Joseph—a below-average student, unlucky in love, confident and loud—sucked Sean out of his introspective shell like a vacuum cleaner. Sean rejoiced that people at TBI treated him as a regular person, one of the boys—a new experience. One day in November Joseph met Sean in the hall. “Sean, you wanna come to my house for Thanksgiving dinner?”

“I dunno, Joseph. Are you sure your mom wants me?” He felt apprehensive about dinner with a strange “Eastern European” family.

“Sure! She loves having people in. Besides, I want to show you my old car.”

So, on Thanksgiving morning they caught the train at Madison Street Station and headed for New Lennox. The day turned colder. Sean cracked open one of the dirty, wood-framed windows on the train and stared at the city as he heard the train wheels clacking and felt the cool air rushing in. But he had little time to absorb the industrial sounds and smells because soon they were passing fields of snow-glazed corn stubble.

Joseph Dvorak worried about everything, and today he worried out loud, raising his voice over the clatter. “I don’t know if I can make it to the end of the semester. . . . don’t know if I can pass Meacham’s class. . . . I’m not sure what I’ll do when I get out of TBI. . . .  I don’t know if my girlfriend wants to break up . . . .”

Sean didn’t know what to say but he thought, What’s friendship when all’s done but the giving and taking of wounds? So he spoke more out of hope than certainty—“Joseph; you’ll be fine! God has a plan for your life.” Joseph’s scowl turned into a smile.

When the train stopped in New Lennox, they grabbed their overnight bags and jumped off. “Sean, we have to walk a mile down Center Road here to my house.”

Joseph’s home appeared a modest bungalow, with an old flat-tired car slumbering alongside the house. “That’s my baby,” Joseph said, peeling back the tarp to reveal his green, 1945 MG TA. “I just need the time and money to work on it.” Sean stared enviously.

Joseph’s Czech mother dominated the Thanksgiving meal, with its wonderful, homey smells flowing out of her tiny kitchen. They sat down, and Mrs. Dvorak asked Joseph to offer a prayer of thanks. After a couple months of institutional food, the bounty overwhelmed Sean—a perfectly-browned turkey, heaps of mashed potatoes and gravy (Sean’s mother rarely made gravy), cloven slices of cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes. Mrs. Dvorak kept saying to him, “Sean, eat!” Music to Sean’s ears—he served himself two extra helpings. After dinner he devoured a big piece of pumpkin chiffon pie topped with two scoops of vanilla ice cream; then she said, “Do you want another piece?” Sean thought, Have I died and gone to heaven?

They spent two wonderful days in the Dvorak home, where Sean slept up in the dormer bedroom. Joseph became a true friend, a friendship that would last more than fifty years.

On the train trip back, the guys talked about future plans. Joseph said, “I’m studying for the ministry, or maybe missions. But I’m worried about Emelia; I don’t know if our engagement’s gonna last.” Sean tried to reassure him.

Back at TBI, Joseph asked Sean, “Wanna walk over to Michigan Avenue and pass out gospel pamphlets?” Fundamentalists felt a holy obligation to tell others the Good News of the gospel. Sean reluctantly agreed and they set out, walking east.

Michigan Avenue! Broad sidewalks and steel-posted street lights with their four-clustered hanging globes. Sean leaned against the frost-silvered stone wall of one of the upscale department stores and stared into a cold display window filled with plastic mannequins clothed with the latest fashions. Up and down Michigan Avenue strolled the Beautiful People—women hatted and high-heeled, displaying sequined sheath dresses, fur wraps and sheer hose; men wearing black wingtip shoes and double-breasted dark suits with handkerchiefs in the breast pockets. Some wore stiff-brimmed, creased-crown Hombergs.

“You know, Joseph, I’ve never bought anything, never even walked into one of these stores.” Like most students, Sean came from a modest economic background. The Depression still lingered in his parents’ minds and commanded frugality. Besides, TBI’s ethos encouraged marshalling energy and resources for Christian evangelism and mission. Sean felt like an alien among the Beautiful People of Michigan Avenue.

And what could an atheist say to people anyway? He gave a passing man a pamphlet and said, “God loves you.”

The man replied, “I doubt it.”

Sean said to himself, I know how you feel!

Joseph told the man, “Don’t doubt God. Our god is a consuming fire.” The man jumped back and stalked off into the distance. Joseph attributed this to the power of God.

Walking back along Chestnut Street, the sharp winter winds blowing off of Lake Michigan pierced their clothing. They passed a brown-skinned man¾sandals, baggy pants, un-pressed shirt, ripped sweater—and handed him a pamphlet. “No leo Inglés,” he said.

Sean told Joseph, “I don’t think he speaks English.” He tried to talk to him in his broken Spanish. “Jose” didn’t trust them at first, but then ended up inviting the guys up to his apartment. Joseph opted to walk back to TBI, but Sean climbed upstairs with Jose to a tiny third-floor room where Jose showed him his Spanish Bible, which they read together. When Joseph prayed for him, Jose mumbled a prayer along with him, then crossed himself.

One night a few weeks later the Norbert Hall guys heard fire sirens, so they poured down the stairs and ran out into the street.

“This one’s close!” Joseph and Fulton were running next to Sean, breathing in the snowy air as they ran toward the blaze.

“Sean—it looks like Jose’s apartment building!”

 Fireman standing on the hook and ladder truck sprayed the upper floors. Firehose water stood freezing on the sidewalks. Sean strained to see Jose’s apartment window—there it was, with smoke pouring out of it. Surely he’d gotten out by now. The flames quickly consumed the wood-frame building, lifting smoke high into the sky. When the heat drove Sean back, he talked to a couple of firemen. “We don’t know much , , , whole building’s destroyed, though.”

The firemen controlled the blaze and the spectators straggled away. The guys walked back to TBI leaving behind the collapsed, charcoaled rafters still glowing with dying embers. Sean was worried. “I hope Jose’s safe. Surely he got out in time.”

The next morning Sean sat in Norbert lounge scanning a small article in the Chicago Tribune. One person died in the Chestnut fire, it said, name of Jose Torres. Sean’s shivered—Jose! He turned to Joseph—“That dear man, far from family and his native home, trying to survive alone in the city, perished in the fire. I wonder what his Catholic faith did for him.”

But then, he thought, what did my faith do for me? I cannot be certain of Jose, or even of myself!