Christian Short Stories
By Web Ruble
Web writes: " A newspaper reporter for 40 years, I have runacross young "cool dudes" who nearly got tripped by deadly shenanigans such as this."
If you are as inexperienced in amour matters as I was, you're a sucker of the first water, or maybe the second. Christ, of course, knows.
I thought I was as savvy a dude as the proverbial "Joe Cool by the water fountain," when I approached young women with caution. However, I didn't know squat. What I didn't realize about my own casual naïveté just about destroyed me.
Nevertheless, I have to admit that that adventure 25 years ago was an amazing (if not exciting) interlude, and was the turning point where I became a true Christian.
- - - - - - -
The weekend was coming and being a bachelor just three years out of high school, I had decided to get a few vittles to carry me until Monday. Wearing jeans and my brag t-shirt, "Westling Landscaping," I plucked a shopping cart from the jammed wire-basket line and proceeded into Buy Best Superette, Kelso's cheapest.
Just as I was entering I saw her - Gloria Stanwiek. She was auburn haired, still had curves in the right places, and had big brown eyes. She had been the darling of just about every guy in my high school class, and of older fellows, as well.
My judgment of her had always been that she was a little spoiled by adulation and full of herself. Yet I was always a sucker for big brown eyes and flashy legs, which she always managed to roll and kick at the right times. I had often admired her from a safe distance.
At first I didn't think she saw me, but just as I was going in the market door she stopped and looked me right in the eyeballs, grinned, rolled her coffee peepers and said, "Hi."
Oh my. I had to think. Didn't she marry Walter Manston, the Longview football star? Or did she? What was it I heard? Anyway, it didn't matter because I had never been close enough to be tempted.
She always seemed so out-of-reach. She always had more dates than Jujuy had fruits. And she owned a reputation for teasing guys.
However, she had those eyes and an engaging smile. I was about to melt.
Now I -- Andy Joe Westling -- had a domestic landscape business that I had started a few months earlier. I was still trying to get permanent customers. So I often read the classifieds in the local Daily News. I also invested in a few ads myself.
The following week I got two telephone probes from people who saw my classified-display ad.
One of them was local and looked promising. I didn't know the name Jake Jernigen, but that was okay. I called him back and asked for directions. His address was 4545 Forest Ridge, Longview. Although in the neighboring town, It was close enough that I could easily handle the account, if he hired me and the arrangements were reasonable.
I found the Jernigen house -- nice with the yard a little run down. Just right.
Jake Jernigen was large, muscular, and looked sort of familiar but I couldn’t place him. We discussed the job and it looked like a go. 'Twas sort of a lets-try-it-and-see-whether-it-works-out type thing. Besides standard routine lawn mowing, he wanted hedge trimming, tree trimming, installation of a few shrubs, and re-doing a side lawn.
In other words, it was the kind of work I liked. There's always been something satisfying to me about being outdoors, my own boss, and beautifying someone's property. Moreover, his had some potential of looking skookum, and he was willing to pay a going fee.
I would start Wednesday at 9 a.m.
Well, I arrived at about 8:30. I wanted to take the job's full measure and shoot some pictures. I would take home the film, develop it and print pix in my makeshift basement darkroom. I would study the prints for suggestions on ways of improving the yard. This, of course, was before camcorders and the popular advent of digital cameras. Moreover I enjoyed the photo part of it as well as the landscaping.
When I arrived Jake was just leaving. He waved as he backed out of his carport, and motored down the street. He and I would go over the pictures after I spent a couple of days trimming trees and a hedge. Hopefully he would listen to my suggestions and maybe even go with a couple of 'em.
Well, I diligently grappled that first day with my power mower, rake, and clippers. And then I took out my gem-doodle Zeiss Ikon camera – with accommodating wide-angle lens -- and began shooting pictures. "Jernigen" had an attractive, curving ,brick walkway leading from the street to the house, which was set back. In front was a sweeping lawn on a slight hill. I was fascinated by the whole scene and wanted several pix.
- - - - - -
It was my first real job. And I wanted to show interest. That evening, I chargedinto my cellar darkroom and began developing pictures.
I ran the film through my developer canister, and after putting the roll of negs in a water bath, I took it to my enlarger to start printing. About the fourth picture - looking right down Jernigen's sidewalk towards the front door - I saw something that I hadn't noticed before. Wow! I was looking at some spectacularlegs. What? The front door was open and a girl -- I couldn't make out who – was obviously striking a pose. Huh?
Why hadn't I noticed her when I was there? Perhaps I was too out-to-lunch and engrossed in my landscape photography. Also, when did she open the door? I thought it had been closed the whole time I was there. Hmmm.
I had planned on taking Tuesday off to preview a couple of other jobs, but I scrapped that, as I had to check out that skirt. Well, all right, it wasn't much of a skirt. Rather, I had to check those legs. Woe was me.
- - - - - -
I arrived the next day at 9. Jernigen was already gone. I looked and the front door was definitely closed.
I Measured this and that. Made a few notes, and had turned to leave when I noticed the door open. Huh? Standing there in the doorway was glorious Gloria Stanwiek. Dressed in something resembling a housecoat, she was striking a leggy what-are-you-gonna-do-about-it pose. It was all I could do to just stand there and stare.
Now, I've seen visions of Aphrodite-like beauty before, but this was glorious beyond glories. 'Twas like a chesty, curvy-legged Venus de Milo, complete with arms, rising from the front bricks. I thought of Liz Taylor and Ava Gardner, but she (Gloria Stanwiek) appeared even more breath-taking. Oh my!
The vision caught me flat-footed, if not drooling and tongue-dragging. With my dingy dungarees hanging on my bony frame, I must have looked like a gawking hyena from Turnip Town.
Long moments of silence followed. Finally, she said, "Hey, Andy Joe, take a break. We need to get re-acquainted."
Flustered, I hemmed and hawed and finally said, "S-s-sorry, I…g-g-gotta get to w-work." I got in to my old beater pickup, ground a few gears, and lurched down the street, absolutely thunderstruck.
Well, I couldn't get Gloria out of my mind. I knew she couldn't see much in me - relative oatmeal. Nevertheless, my heart was beguiled, and I just had to go back the next day. And the day after, and the day after that.
Each time I saw her she looked just as enticing. Her drop-dead beauty scalded me. She acted so steamy. Finally one day, she invited me in for coffee. I'll never forget it. I knew better, but I went in, anyway. Dressed in a negligee, she moved close. Her half exposed body stirred me to a tingle, and those big smoky eyes caused me to burn.
I kissed her. She was wonderful. My wildest dreams never held anything warmer.She seemed to want more, but I was terrified. What if her husband/boyfriend camehome and caught us?
Finally, she said, "I know you dig me and want me. I'm yours, but I need you to do one thing for me. Bill and I have almost no money. We need someone to robRegents Bank. Bill can't do it, because he has a record. Bank folks know who heis and would call police the minute he walks in. Police are watching me, too . .."
"Ho! W- w-w-w-wait a minute," I stammered.
She ignored me: "Hear me out. I have a detailed plan. Bill and me -- we'd drive ya to within a block of the bank. We'd stay in the get-away car out of sight at the curb with the motor running. Nobody'd expect anything from you. You'd go inand pull the holdup. After we drove away, you'd have to do one more thing . . . shoot and kill Bill. That way you and I, with the money, could make it. Go to California. I have a hideout there. Then Vegas. Just think of it. You and me -- non-stop lovin' -- and all that money."
To say I was flabbergasted wouldn't cover it. I was flummoxed beyond anything earthly.
Although I certainly didn't deserve it, God was with me. I looked into Gloria' smoldering big browns and somehow managed to say, "Hey, I need to really thinkabout this . . . and you . . . and me."
The words felt awkward coming out, but apparently they were enough to convinceher I was going to be a patsy. "Take a couple of days," she said. "I'll bewaiting to satisfy your most feral desires. Come here Friday at 10. Oh, and don't tell Bill about our conversation. I'll just tell him we have a coming gig. Okay?"
I hesitated. She wiggled to me and laid on the hottest kiss that I could imagine.
Well, hell has no fury like I felt at that moment. I knew the two of them wouldn't hesitate to kill me, instead.
So I left, faking that I was starry eyed. (It wasn't hard to do.)
First thing the next morning, I dashed to the police station, spilling the whole plot and story to Detective Leonard Jones. He had officers lock me up that night for protective custody. The next day federal marshals arrested Bill and Gloria and booked them on a variety of federal charges -- among them plotting a bank robbery and planning a murder.
A few days later, I was talking to my minister, the Rev. Harley Galloway. He was straight arrow: "Well, right now Gloria is making goo-goo eyes at jailers. And no Jernigen exists, either. Rather, 'Jake' is Bill Manston, older brother of Walter, and football All-America honorable mention at University of Wyoming. He went pro. Didn't make it. Went to Canada. Didn't make it there, either.
"Came home. Hard times set in. Couldn't hold or even get a job. He took up with Gloria, who had been unemployed after doing time for embezzlement conviction. They needed money, of course. Before long they both developed records for holdups and fraud. And they were living illegally in that abandoned house. That's where you came in.
"Boy, I'm glad you reacted the way you did - doing the right thing."
"Yeah," I said. "But I don't enjoy being someone who young entrepreneurs think they can make a fool of. Yet I think I still might have gone along with ol' brown eyes if it hadn't been for that murder thing."
"I doubt that," said the Rev. Mr. Galloway. "I know you -- flaky yet steadfast when it is important. Nevertheless, I hope this experience has helped you cool your jets on sweet chickadees. All that is lovely is not necessarily godly. You certainly know that now. Rather you should think, 'all that is Godly is lovely.' Think about it. God is waiting."
(© 2011 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)
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