Blind Trust Or Treasures In Heaven?

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Blind Trust Or Treasures In Heaven?

James R. Aist

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in nor steal, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Sometimes we cross paths with strangers whose kindness is so extraordinary that it leaves us asking, “Who does that?” This is a true story of just such an encounter that I still find to be mind-boggling every time think about it.

At the time, I was a graduate student, and we were headed to London, Ontario, where I would conduct a research project during the summer that would be helpful to my career development. Because it was not far out of our way, we decided this would be a great opportunity to camp for a week in the Adirondack Mountains, before moving on to London.

Unfortunately, there was a hurricane making its way North that, although considerably weakened by the time it got to New York, still was packing strong winds and lots of cold rain. For some reason, we were not aware that we were camping through a hurricane until after the fact, but we were very much aware that we and our camping gear were cold, damp and wet, and that we were fed up with being confined to our small tent for most of a week just trying to stay as warm and dry as possible.

Now, here comes the good part. An older couple “camping” comfortably next to us in a large, dry and warm camper had befriended us during the week, offering to have us spend some time with them to get warm and dry. But, alas and alack, when it came time for us to pack up and leave, we were neither warm nor dry. They picked up on our suffering, and, having pity on us, made us a most amazing offer. These total strangers would lend us the keys to their house – which was right on our way to London – so that we could spend the night there and get us and our camping gear dry, warm and clean for the final leg of our journey the next day! They even invited us to eat their food and help ourselves to their strawberry patch, which was in peak production at the time. We could hardly believe our ears; who does that? We knew that they could trust us with their stuff, but they didn’t. Such a thing can only come from generous hearts that are extraordinarily trusting and compassionate. They watched us suffer through the wind, rain and cold for a week, and then stepped up and did what they could do to help us out. Of course, we couldn’t refuse their offer and were richly blessed by their act of kindness.

I still can’t fully wrap my mind around it, though. What motivated them to make such a kind and generous offer? Were they so fully detached from their earthly belongings that they really didn’t care if we ripped them off? Or, perhaps, were they such good judges of character that they had a way of knowing that we would not rip them off? I don’t know. But, this one thing I do know: this precious couple humbly lived out, if even for only this one encounter, the heart and spirit of what Jesus was saying in Matthew 6:19-21. They surely made a sizable deposit into their heavenly treasury that day, I can tell you!

(To read more of my short stories, click HERE)

The Cat and the Commode

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The Cat and the Commode

James R. Aist

(Warning: This story is hilarious, but it contains a potentially offensive word picture. Read at your own risk!)

I love house cats, especially when they are tiny kittens…innocent, curious and eager to explore new things. They just do the darndest things! This story took place when we were living in a small country house near Ithaca, NY. We had gotten a couple of kittens, Missy and Muffet, just a few days earlier. As it turns out, baby animals are fascinated with water, and some seem to be drawn to it, especially the tinkling sound produced by falling water. Missy was no exception, as I was about to find out. Now, keep in mind that what I am about to tell you occurred rapidly in real time, much faster than you can read about it.

We had a lavatory just off of one corner of the kitchen. One afternoon I felt the need to relieve myself and “make my bladder gladder”, if you catch my drift. So, into the lavatory I went and began to take care of business. Almost immediately I noticed, out of the corner of my right eye, a small, fuzzy animal trotting in through the open door to see what was going on. It was my little Missy, come to investigate the tinkling sound. Immediately I got the feeling that this may not end well for her.

She stopped and sat down about a foot away from the commode and peered inquisitively toward the source of the tinkling sound. I thought that was really cute of her. But, then she began to go into that nervous little crouch that cats do when preparing to pounce. I said to myself, “Surely she’s not going to actually try to jump up onto the edge of the toilet bowl to get a better view of the falling “water.” But alack and alas, that’s exactly what she had in mind, so up she goes. Problem was, she didn’t yet know that toilet bowls were not solid on top. Another problem was, she didn’t know to compensate for her forward momentum as she tried to land on the edge of the toilet bowl. Next thing I know, she is hopelessly tipping toward where the stream was entering the toilet water, her frantic struggles to gain her balance notwithstanding. So, in she plopped, legs and tail flailing frantically as she tried to stay afloat. By this time I was already beginning to see the humor in this learning experience for Missy. She quickly made her way across to the other side, managed to scramble up onto the other side of the the toilet bowl, dropped down onto the floor, and tried to shake off as much of the “water” as she could. So, I decided to just keep tinkling, because I reckoned she wasn’t injured and surely had learned not to do that again! She would go around behind me to get away and run out the door, right?

But alack and alas, again, that was not the case. I watched her square around toward the commode and, once again, go into that tell-tale crouch. “Surely”, I thought to myself, “she will not jump up there again, after all that!” But upsy-daisy, here she came, and with the exact same result. Now I was laughing so hard it was a struggle to control my stream, but I managed. Then, I quickly grabbed a towel and dried Missy off as best I could. For her part, she just casually walked away, as if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened.

I’m not convinced that Missy really learned anything from that episode, but I sure did: next time, close that darned door!

(To read more of my short stories, click HERE)

The “Bass Bait Bummer”

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The “Bass Bait Bummer”

James R. Aist

“Things aren’t always as they seem.” – Carl Hurley, Kentucky humorist

This is a true “fish story”, I swear it! By that I mean this really happened, believe me.

I was in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin at the time, and my wife and I decided to take a summer vacation of hiking, canoeing and fishing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area just north of the Wisconsin border. I was an avid fisherman and couldn’t wait to get my “hooks” into a monster muskie up there. With eager anticipation, I brought along a light-weight, collapsible gig (a three-pronged spear, as it were) just in case the muskie was too big to land with my light-weight fishing line. As you will see, that scenario developed alright, just not as I had expected.

We launched our canoe at the first lake and portaged from the end of that lake to the second lake.  There I decided to fish for an hour or so before we pitched our tent and retired for the night. It was a bit windy, so we were going to have to paddle upwind, fish as the wind drove us back, and repeat, repeatedly. It was a small lake with a bluff and weed bed on the far side, and I surmised that, if there were any muskies to be had, they would be lurking in or near the weed bed. So we launched the canoe, and I started fishing as we paddled toward the weed bed. To my surprise, on the second cast I had the most powerful strike ever! This fish fought harder and longer than any other fish I had ever hooked. I could tell that it wasn’t a muskie when it surfaced, and it wasn’t a large-mouth bass either. When I got it landed, I could see that it was a good-sized, small-mouth bass. That’s when I had a vision of frying it for dinner that night! After hooking this fish onto my stringer and lowering it into the water to keep it alive for later, we continued to paddle toward the weed bed.

When we were sufficiently upwind and near the weed bed, I began casting toward the weed bed as we drifted downwind, pulling the bass along in the water as we went. I got 4-5 casts in before we had to paddle upwind again, with no muskie. Each time we drifted downwind to fish, the bass would get tangled up in a few weeds, so we had to pause to free it. After the third pass alongside the weed bed without any sign of a muskie, I noticed that the bass had gotten entangled by a clump of weeds much wider and longer than before. So we paused once more to free up the bass, and that’s when I took a closer look at the clump of weeds. Suddenly, it occurred to me that this was not a clump of weeds at all. It was a huge muskie, about three feet long, that had chomped down on the bass we were dragging in the water! I was shocked, and it took me a few moments to figure out what to do next, without spooking the muskie and causing him to release the bass. I wanted to land both of them, but how could I possibly get the muskie in the boat without spooking him?

Well, that’s when I remembered the gig I had brought with me. Perhaps I could spear him with it and lift him in. So I began to carefully and quietly assemble the pieces of the shaft. Then I leaned carefully over the edge of the canoe, lowered the gig slowly into the water, aligned the business end of the gig over the back fin of the muskie, and, with all my might, I jabbed at him violently. At first I thought I had him, because I saw the gig strike him squarely and shake him. But, alas and alack, it was only a glancing blow. The muskie gently released his grip on the bass, and we slowly drifted away from him until he was too far away for me to try again. “Dagnabbit”, I said to myself, “I almost had him, and that would have made such a great fish story”!

Unfortunately, that was my one and only encounter with a muskie on that trip. But, on the upside, the bass made a delicious dinner for the two of us that night. And, just in case you were wondering…yes, the bass had the tell-tale pattern of muskie tooth marks on both sides. Now that was impressive!

(To read more of my short stories, click HERE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

we launched our canoe

Murphy’s Law Strikes Again! (Or, Let ‘er Rip!)

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Murphy’s Law Strikes Again! (Or, Let ‘er Rip!)

James R. Aist

“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” – Murphy

Most of us are all too familiar with the manifestation of Murphy’s Law in our lives. I am no exception. Thankfully, this law usually manifests in relatively minor, private situations where little or no embarrassment results. But, that is not always the case, as this all-too-true short story will amply demonstrate.

It was the summer of 1965, and I was an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Beautiful Lake Wedington was a short drive from campus, and it was there that the Department of Plant Pathology, where I had worked part time for more than a year, was having its annual picnic on Saturday afternoon. Most everyone there would know me.

I was bashful around girls growing up and had only dated once by the time I entered college, but I wanted to. Somehow, I found enough courage to invite a new girl in the Department to go with me to the picnic. I would pick her up in my 1955 Chevy, a two-tone, white-over butter-yellow Belaire with a forest green interior; she was a beaut! I would rent a canoe on the premises, and we would enjoy a short boat ride before the picnic began. Well, she accepted, and I was psyched! I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

It was a beautiful, warm and sunny summer day, just right for a boat ride and picnic. I was decked out in a T-shirt and tight-fitting shorts, perfect for the occasion, I reckoned. As we approached the picnic area, we could see that there was a large turnout. We parked the car, and I headed straight for the canoes and picked out a good one. Now, I was more than a little ill-at-ease at this point, because I had not actually paddled a canoe before, and because I really wanted to make a good impression on this new girl. It felt like the whole crowd was watching as I held one end of the canoe steady so she could climb aboard and take her seat at the far end of the canoe, facing me; so far, so good. Now it was my turn, and I climbed clumsily into the canoe, barely managing to avoid tipping the canoe over. But, as I was cautiously taking a seat directly facing her, I heard it: an audible “rrrrrRRIP” coming from the direction of my crotch area. I had heard that dreaded sound before, so I new immediately that the unthinkable had happened. I looked down to see how bad it was, and it was really bad:  there was a 6-inch tear in the crotch of my shorts, and there were my “tidy whities” peeking out, in full view of the girl I so wanted to make a good impression on! I was instantly embarrassed beyond comprehension and sat there motionless for a moment. In rapid succession I asked myself, “What can I do, what can I say, who else is watching?” Well, it quickly dawned on me that there was only one way to make the best of this bad situation. So, I put my knees together and paddled us back to the shore. We got out of the canoe, walked directly to the car, and drove to my apartment, where I changed my shorts. Then, we drove back to the lake and re-joined the picnic, as if nothing noteworthy had happened.

Now, I don’t know if anyone else at the picnic had actually seen my “display” during all this, but, thankfully, no one said anything if they did. And my date was very kind and understanding on her part, being quick to express an eagerness to just put it behind us and move on. We actually enjoyed the picnic, and she went out with me again later. One thing I can say for sure is, I did manage to make quite an impression on her that beautiful, sunny afternoon, albeit far different from what I had in mind!

And I suppose Murphy was standing somewhere in the middle of the crowd, shaking his head and trying to hold back a giggle or two. He must have known something was going to go wrong, and of course, it did. Thanks a lot, pal!

(To read more of my short stories, click HERE)