Tag Archives: stories

Anecdoting #52: Last Minute Gifts

“Missing Stockings” by Chad Robert Parker

The first Christmas story alludes to the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ. Many of the Christmas traditions we celebrate today by recognizing Christmas on December 25th, however, have more origins going back to the Christmas story where Santa Claus began. It started with a man sneaking treats into kids socks hung over the warmth of the fireplace, if I’m not mistaken. Celebrating Christmas as a newlywed with my wife from the Philippines means we are learning each others’ traditions. I wanted to be sure Christmas Stockings were a part of that tradition.

I staked out a few stores and found the Stockings to fill with nuts, candies, popcorn, and the like, along with oranges, pomegranate (which she has never tried), and a filipina twist, mango. But I ran into one problem. My last minute Christmas shopping was not going to work this year.

We have been rather busy and always together. I found my one perfect opportunity to go to the store yesterday when I had a day off from work and after I dropped her off at her job. To my surprise the stores I had scouted out before, however, had already pulled the stockings from their offerings. So for Christmas Eve I will be creating makeshift stockings to put all of our goodies into. Merry Christmas!

Update: Christmas Eve, on the 4th attempt, I happened by a store with the perfect $1 stockings to go along with our humble Christmas Day. Stockings will be hung after all (fireplace not included). Merry Christmas!

Anecdoting #48: Thanksgiving Turkey

“2 guys, 1 turkey,” by Chad Robert Parker

My brother and I did Thanksgiving together last year. Yup, just two single guys. By the title you might be wondering which one of us was the turkey, but we actually went all out and had a full on turkey dinner. At this point in the story there are surely some who feel bad for us, thinking you would feel lonely in that situation, but I have fond memories of last year. We had a great time giving thanks!

Turns out my brother and I are decent cooks. We had mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, orange rolls, cranberry sauce, olives, pickles, pies, and I’m sure I’m missing something. Oh yes, the turkey. I was in charge of that. I had cooked up ham before and pot roast, but I had only ever helped with the turkey. I figured I knew the gist of cooking it. I never even thought I could buy the wrong turkey. No, it wasn’t a live turkey with feathers still on it, or a spoiled carcass or anything crazy like that. It was actually already cooked and then frozen again.

Turns out a pre-smoked turkey is really good and it only takes an hour’s baking to revive it to great succulent, steamy, peal-off-the-bone-meat. Yeah, it cost us a little bit more but it was a good meal. We had more than any two guys could want. I would do it again, that way, but I’m ready to enjoy a spectacular Thanksgiving with more family this year, including my wife from the Philippines. This will be her first experience with the Thanksgiving Day cooking adventure. We’re leaving the turkey to the experts. We’re bringing the pies! Happy Thanksgiving!!

Anecdoting #45: Pranks & Practical Jokes

“Freeze ’em out,” by Chad Robert Parker

The prank I remember most as a kid was when my oldest brother rolled up the biggest snowball he could carry to my dad’s hot tub. My dad proclaimed that he wouldn’t dare. My brother says he didn’t intend to dump it into the tub at all, but between chuckling, my dad startling him, and gravity’s effect on the slippery ball of coldness it splashed in, created a wave, and left both my dad and my brother’s jaws on the floor. My brother ran for his life and my dad locked all of the doors, freezing him out in the cold hours of the night.

We grew up knowing that my dad did not like to be the butt of practical jokes. We also didn’t test others in the household much either, as it usually was taken as a show of disrespect. In college I discovered that others saw it quite the opposite, like more of a sign of respect, even interest, or love.

Some girls in a neighboring apartment complex played the best prank on us one time, when they packed our front door with snow in the middle of the night. They even had a good start on our back entry-way before we caught on. Whether it be a classic piece of cold ice down the back or having your car plowed in, ice sure can be just the trick to inconvenience anyone, enemy or friend.

My brothers and I took a lesson from our youth. We realized that we could go back and forth all year long trying to best each other or we could prank our pranksters by not pranking them at all. That’s the funny thing about pranking. You can stop someone in their tracks without even going through all of the hassle and effort of literally freezing them out. The mere threat of danger is often worse than the prank itself, and we made sure to mention every possible prank the girls could expect might be waiting for them at their door, or otherwise, on any given day. It was fun holding that proverbial bucket of water over their heads.

Anecdoting #44: Haunted House

“Haunted Asylum,” by Chad Robert Parker

My first year in college I went to a haunted house that was closed down the next year for questions of safety. You see it was held on the grounds of the mental hospital and some of the patients were involved in participating as ghouls, ghosts, and spooks of all kinds. I remember it being much like any other haunted house where they were not allowed to actually touch you, but I also remember feeling some concern that the one with the chainsaw (even without it having a chain on) might be mentally ill rather than a staff member.

I was a freshman and my roommates were all upperclassmen. Good thing we brought a few girls to scream and hide or the attention of these masqueraders would have surely been directed on me. As it was I rather enjoyed watching the girls run from these certifiably insane people. I’m not sure what the political correct term is when you are being chased like that. My friend chose to yell, “get these crazies away from me,” which only seemed to increase their fervor. I wouldn’t say it was a traumatic event, but the event achieved its motive of terrifying the crowd. I wondered how many other instances like this occurred. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. Your mind runs wild when you think of what frightening behavior people might be capable of.

Like I said, they closed the draw down the next year. Yeah, I for one was disappointed I couldn’t go again. I heard they might open it up, again.

Anecdoting #40: Kindergarten

“School Daze,” by Chad Robert Parker

My family moved when I was five years old and I transferred schools in the middle of Kindergarten. The second program focused on the phonetic alphabet and the first program focused on whatever the opposite of that is called. I learned the letters in the first school, but the second school wanted to focus on the sounds. Confused? I was.

My new Kindergarten teacher would put me in a chair everyday and then place headphones on my ears. I had never interacted with a computer quite like that before. It didn’t register at first that I was supposed to be following along and writing something on a page rather than waiting for the audio story to begin.

First, the voice gave me an instruction to write my name at the top of the page. I was curious to see where this was going. Then it proceeded to instruction number two, three, and four about the sounds of letters. By this point I was yawning and my teacher would come by and wonder why I hadn’t completed the first step. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no dummy. I may not have known very many of the other answers even if I had tried, but I knew how to put my name on the page. I just didn’t see the point in it.

Why do a boring assignment when not doing it would result in me being sent to the coloring table every day.

I spent my Kindergarten class time becoming an artist.

Anecdoting #39: Driver’s Education

“My turn to drive,” by Chad Robert Parker

Driver’s Ed was a comedy of errors. Most high school students in my car had driven on a farm many times over. For me Driving School was my first chance behind the wheel, so most of the errors were mine.

My instructor had many quirks I had heard about. I knew he did not believe in deodorant and his odor accelerated with the stress of teaching driving. He had a habit of picking his nose and flicking the boogers out the window. What I didn’t know is he took it for granted that some kids had never paid much attention to driving. Coming from a large family, and usually avoiding the drama of fighting over the front seat, I was a back seat learner.

My first mistake was asking how to turn the turn signal off. My instructor showed me by jerking the steering wheel just to change lanes. I figured out later that the steering wheel was not the only way to get the turn signal to turn off.

My mimicry of one of my peers didn’t go unnoticed. He squealed tires pulling into a parking spot but parked perfectly within the lines. My attempt was not so good. I was practically sideways.

My friends describe the time I came to a “T” in the road. The instructor did not say “right” or “left” when I asked for his directions. I ended up going straight, only I skidded to a stop just before launching off the road. They tell me they were afraid every time it was my turn to drive. Luckily for them I was better than my older brother who literally jumped railroad tracks when he failed to slow down for a hill. Luckily for small town Indiana the Parker boys escaped Driver’s Ed without greater incident.

Anecdoting #37: Gone Fishing

“A waterfall of fish” by Chad Robert Parker

In my family the running joke is that we don’t want to go fishing, we want to go catching. I’m not the best fisherman. Usually it is a good activity for reading a book or pondering the great mysteries of existence. I have spent many trips not catching one fish. I have also had a few trips, usually to the ocean, where the trip was more geared for success. My favorite trip was very much the latter.

My family made a trip to Yosemite National Park. We enjoyed fishing in the pools along the little streams trickling down the mountain. The water was so cold and clear and the air so crisp. The fish would group into the larger pools and hide under the ledge of the banks. We caught some fish throughout the day this way. And then we found the gold mine. Every day the Park would stock not just the streams but the fish pond. Yes, we parked ourselves right outside the stocking truck. Those fish came out acting like it was feeding time and we reeled them in one after the other. While I was very young at the time and would cherish more of a challenge now, that trip still stands out as my best fishing trip.

Featured Story #1: “Our Day Lost On The River”

OUR DAY LOST ON THE RIVER

A true survivalist yearns for the adventure that would test those skills. But when a true test leaves you lost and unprepared as I was, you question your glamorous idea of even surviving at all. Today was that kind of predicament. And it was only a matter of time before Brady discovered what I had realized two hours earlier; no one was coming to find us.

Brady lay motionless with one arm, bent at the elbow, over his eyes. His other arm held his glasses tightly on his large protruding belly. Clouds were quickly moving in, but the sun still bore down on us. My reddened skin stung with every movement and I tried to imitate Brady and remain still. I knew that I couldn’t possibly fall asleep, but hoped that Brady already had. How would he handle being lost? I was sure he would go into shock.

“Charlie, did you purposely take us down the wrong way at the fork in the river?”

Brady’s voice startled me.

“Of course not, I thought it was a shortcut.”

“Then why are we lost?”

“It wasn’t a shortcut.” I laughed insecurely and propped myself up on my elbows to see Brady’s reaction. He didn’t even crack a smile. “Seriously Brady, I just thought it would connect with the main river again.” Brady did not respond to this, either. I wanted to tell Brady we would not take shortcuts if he paddled more, but I couldn’t. He had refused to be in the same canoe with anyone else, after all.

“Are you mad at me Brady?”

“No!” He opened his eyes and looked straight at me. “I’m just wondering how we’re going to get out of here.”

“How about we go back the way we came?” Brady gave me a disgusted look and closed his eyes again. “It’s just a joke.”

“I know.” Brady was calm and did not need my attempt at lightening the situation.

“Shouldn’t we gather firewood?” I was already on my feet moving toward the woods.

“Why? Are you hungry? What would we eat?” Brady didn’t even bother opening his eyes.

“I just want dry clothes before it gets cold,” I answered.

“Did you bring matches?”

I reached for my wallet where I had stowed a match for emergencies. My pockets were empty. Not wanting to get my wallet wet, I left it at camp. That same excuse applied for having brought nothing in the way of survival.

“We’ll use your glasses,” I said.

“The sun’s almost gone, but go ahead.” It was now obvious to me that Brady was no help at all. Why was I lost with the laziest person alive? “What time is it?” I asked.

“Don’t know.”

“Don’t know,” I repeated. “You seem to have enough time to keep track of the sun. Can’t you tell time by it, by now.” I knew my anger was irrational, but voicing my hasty discontent seemed logical given the circumstances.

“See those dark clouds? I give them half an hour. It’s gonna rain,” Brady pointed.

I mused at how he could still just lie there. “Then we’d better find shelter—something to cover us.”

“The canoe,” Brady offered.

“What?” I quickly glanced confused over at the canoe, but it was safely placed where I had left it.

“We have a canoe,” Brady repeated.

“What are you talking about? You want to cover the canoe?” I asked.

Brady just laughed.

“What?” It seemed ironic that he hadn’t laughed until I was now most serious.

“We’ll turn it over and sleep under it.” Brady straightened his face.

Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of it? I supposed that while I was concerned with things we didn’t have, Brady had calmly considered what we did have. For the first time I was glad Brady was with me, even if he had swamped our canoe countless times with his awkward lack of balance.

One question nagged at me: how lost exactly were we? Maybe we could walk out just over the nearest embankment. It was harder and harder to convince myself to stay put—as survival guides would recommend—especially when I wasn’t even convinced anyone would report us lost. And by now we had drifted so far from where we had last been seen. My mind ached, so I tried to stop concerning myself with these bad thoughts. But I couldn’t seem to think about anything else, except for how I was too drained of energy to do anything about it anyway.

My hands were sore and callused. My thumb was raw from rubbing against the oar: every stroke formed blisters then removed them. The inner part of my legs had developed a rash from the friction of wet swim trunks on dry skin. I lay down again, resting my sore lower back on the sloping bank of the river. I couldn’t remember being more physically tired in my life. It baffled me to think that Brady hadn’t complained about any discomfort. I almost hoped he would. He had to be hungry. I was starving, even though I said otherwise.

I watched as the sun vanished behind the clouds. Then the clouds overtook the entire sky. It was probably only a few minutes, but seemed as though hours had passed. I lay there in silence until a large clap of thunder shook me from my resting place. In one motion I whirled around to my hands and knees only to find Brady sleeping peacefully at the top of the bank, where the sand met the woods. I smiled as I remembered earlier that day; Brady had slept in that same way, while I paddled.

Pulling with all of the energy I had left, I brought the canoe up the riverbank and collapsed next to my friend. It began to rain, so I flipped the canoe over and leaned it against a tree with Brady underneath. There was just enough room for me to climb underneath on the other side. I removed my wet shirt and strung it overhead on one of the supporting rungs of the canoe. The pitter-patter of the raindrops on the canoe grew louder and eventually woke Brady up.

“Hey! You awake, Charlie?”

“Yeah!”

“Thanks for setting the canoe up.”

It was the first time Brady had thanked me all day. I tried to remember even once when he had helped turn our tipped canoe back over. He hadn’t. The slightest bump from a twig or a rock would send us flipping into the water. Then the same routine would unfold. I would flail arms and legs swimming as quickly as I could to catch the canoe. “Come help me,” I would yell, knowing full well that Lazy Brady wasn’t about to help. He would float down stream in a sitting position clasping his knees with his hands and just chuckle like a dumb oaf. Then, I would thrust the canoe upright, remove all of the water, and we would get back in.

Later the river became more shallow, when it diverged into two streams. We were slower than ever without a current, but we did not tip over as often. But then there was that slight problem of weight distribution. I rode high out of the water, while Brady dragged bottom, joking about being our human anchor. I resorted to paddling directly off of the hard ground. Otherwise I would spend my time splashing water with each stroke, sending the front of the boat back and forth; the back of the boat refuse to budge though, remaining wedged between Brady and the river bottom. Every time we got stuck it was almost as funny to Brady as when we flipped over.

“Brady, what do you think the other guys are doing right now?”

“Probably eating,” he laughed briefly. “No—they are long gone. In bed by now, I imagine.”

“You don’t think they are looking for us?”

“Maybe for you. Those guys don’t like me.”

I didn’t argue with him. He was right. They would sooner leave Brady behind, than be seen assisting him in anyway. He was just a source of practical jokes for them to have along. But what he didn’t know is that I had kind of taken responsibility for Brady not holding us up, and I was sure they weren’t coming for me, either. “Well, they don’t know you.” I consoled.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Brady shrugged.

I was glad he seemed satisfied with my answer but I knew the truth; they didn’t want to get to know him. Guilt rushed through me. In actuality, I had come on the canoe trip to distance myself from the Brady crowd, and get noticed by the popular crowd. Yet, somehow here I was left alone with Brady instead. Sure he was nice; but I didn’t want to be seen with him, either. A smile came over me; those earlier concerns seemed so frivolous now. Of the other four guys, I realized I was glad it was Brady I was lost with.

“Maybe the ranger will come for us.” It was as close to changing topics as I could come up with.

“Sure, to get his canoe back.”

I laughed, but then it occurred to me that he actually made sense, again. It put me at ease.

Sand proved to be firm in all the wrong places and harder to sleep on than I would have guessed. Rain poured down on the canoe soaking our legs, but our torsos remained dry. Not being able to get to sleep, we talked like old friends long into the night. At some point the rain eased up and we were too tired to talk any longer, but I remember feeling how everything seemed right again. Then the simple rhythm of the pitter-patter overhead lulled me away into a dreamy slumber.

The sun gleamed underneath the canoe waking me from my sleep. It was a pleasant morning. I rolled out from under my shelter to bask in the sun’s warmth.

“Brady, wake up, its morning.” He groaned a little, and I crawled over to him and nudged him. “Come on, this is no time to be lazy.” These words worked because Brady’s arm flew from his side and clinched my shirt.

“I’m not lazy!”

“Okay, then help me put the canoe back in the water.”

“I can’t!”

“Come on; if we go downstream we might find a way out.”

“Great idea Charlie, but…”

“But what?”

“I can’t help. My leg is broken.” Brady definitely seemed lazy to me, but I knew he was not a liar.

“You’re serious! When did that happen?”

“The first time we fell out of the canoe it pinned me up on a rock, momentarily.” Brady replied.

Guilt flushed through me once again, knowing all of the anger I had felt toward him. All along he laughed when we faced an ordeal; not even one complaint.

“I’m sorry.” Brady said.

“For what?” I asked.

“Not helping more.” Brady answered.

“You should be called Crazy Brady, then—if that’s what you think! Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to ruin your trip. You wanted to go so badly.”

I couldn’t have felt any worse than I did at this moment. “Brady, I’m sorry.”

I didn’t make Brady crawl back to the water like he had when he left it the day before. To think that I had watched that miserable sight of my friend slithering like a worm, and the whole time I stood there wondering how he could be so ridiculous with such a show. Now I hefted him into his throne in the back of the canoe and I pulled it back to the waterway. Before we cast off I took one last look at our resting grounds and admired the glimmer of raindrops on leaves. I breathed in deeply the fresh renewal of rainforest, and noticed a rainbow shimmering above the river ahead. Our casual float downstream was much more pleasant than the day before. A ranger stationed to intercept this possible errant path greeted us. He radioed the search off. But no surprise, missing canoes had indeed tipped the forest service off, not our so-called friends; they were too afraid to tell anyone that there were more canoes in their party and justified it with the curfews they never had a need to follow before.

Anecdoting #27: Camping Out

“Smell of the fresh outdoors,” by Chad Robert Parker

I went on lots of campouts with my parents. My dad was my Scout Leader for many years. My youngest brother is several years younger than me. I’m not sure how often he went camping before our skunk sighting. But the way he reacted had me wondering if he had too much of the California city life.

He was jumping up and down trying to say something to get our attention. Our backs were to him while we were enjoying conversation and the warmth of the fire. At first we ignored him, but then he got louder. I think he was shocked to find that the animal he thought was a cat was indeed a skunk. I was shocked to find him freaking out. I thought we were going to get sprayed for sure. The skunk scurried off without incidence. My brother finally got the words out, “skunk, skunk, skunk.”

We had a good long laugh over that one. Many campouts have followed. I trust my brother knows what to do if there is another skunk, or at least what not to do. Maybe we just had to get the city out of him.

Anecdoting #26: Unforgettable Birthdays

“Clown Party,” by Chad Robert Parker

My favorite birthday was not my own. When I was in high school my youngest brother was still quite young. Whether he wanted a clown party or not, I don’t remember, but as an older brother I was to take center stage. How hard could it be to entertain kids seven years old or younger?

I was not much for tricks but I always liked juggling. Nothing special, but I could juggle a few basketballs, some pins, and eat an apple. I know what you are wondering–no, not at the same time. Why is it that you automatically expect jugglers to add one more ball, or one more spin, or one more element than whatever ridiculous feat they are accomplishing? Here’s looking at you America’s Got Talent. Never mind, I get a little sidetracked, as jugglers often do. Back to the object at hand:

Some children seem really amused with juggling. Others? Not so much. I remember one child in particular staring blankly and picking his nose. When I finished a couple bites of my apple trick he disappeared and by no coincidence so did my apple. By the time I moved from that trick to the next he was gnawing on my apple in the distance.

I got a kick out of how proudly he displayed the remainder of his birthday party favor when his mom arrived.