Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 9:45 am Thursday, March 30, 2017

“Music Lessons”

By N. R. Tucker

When I was a 6-year-old, my mother told me I would take piano lessons. For the next seven years, one day a week, instead of walking home after school, I walked to my piano teacher’s house. I knew her. She was the pianist at our church, and I expected to play hymns. Imagine my surprise when I had to learn how to read notes on a piece of paper and identify the keys in front of me.

After I recovered from the shock that playing the piano was work, I found I liked reading music. The mathematical precision appealed to my sense of order, although it was years before I understood that. Once I mastered the basics, I fell in love with music. The piano, however, I did not love. I enjoyed performing at the concerts.  Mrs. Thomas discovered the best way to get me to practice what she assigned was to tell me it was for a concert. I would have stopped lessons after a few years, but my mother was sure piano lessons were essential.

Even at a young age, I understood that Mom demanded I play the piano because she wanted to learn when she was young but never had an opportunity. One of the few arguments we had as mother and daughter occurred when I suggested that she take piano lessons instead of me.

As I progressed in my training, I practiced my assigned pieces only during lessons. At home, I practiced rock and pop songs from greatest hits music books I purchased with money earned by doing additional chores. These books had guitar notes, and they fascinated me. My brother had a guitar, and he allowed me to play it, even teaching me a few things. I quickly learned that my fingernails interfered with my ability to play and was honest enough to admit I wasn’t very good.

In middle school, I convinced Mom that the piano and I would never be good friends. With a relieved smile, Mrs. Thomas said goodbye after my last concert. She was a great teacher, but I was not an obedient student.

By this time, I had discovered the flute. I loved it. The instrument was a big part of my remaining school years. With the flute, I practiced daily, both what I was assigned and what interested me.  Without the background in reading music taught to me by the long-suffering Mrs. Thomas, I would not have progressed so quickly. I won awards and honors playing the flute, even performing a couple of pieces that I wrote. Mrs. Thomas was proud, commenting that I found the right instrument.

On pleasant evenings, I would practice the flute on the porch. We lived on Main Street in our small town, and some of the neighbors would come out to listen.

Years later, my daughter chose to try the flute in middle school. I had worked hard to not force the flute on her but was thrilled to give her mine when she asked. She did not have the same affinity as I, and she didn’t stick with it. I count it as on of my best Mom moments when I didn’t force her to stay with something she didn’t enjoy. My daughter eventually took guitar lessons, loved it, and even wrote some music of her own.

If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that you should try new things, different things. You may even find yourself.


By Linda Barnette

Although news traveled slowly in those days, all of the boys and men gathered outside after church services at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Davidson County, North Carolina. It was July of 1861, and word had reached the remote area close to the Yadkin River that Southerners were at war with Yankees after the Battle of Fort Sumter earlier that year. The men were excited at the prospect of going to war in order to preserve their way of life. Hi (Hiram) Hartley bragged,

“We’ll whip those Yanks in a month. They’re no match for us boys.”

The others all agreed, and the hollering and boasting continued until time for the church picnic to end.

The womenfolk, on the other hand, were quiet and pensive, wondering how they would get along without their men to do the farming and all of the other hard work of running a plantation. Allie Hartley was deeply worried but did not speak of her concern.

After making preparations as well as they could for their farms, their homes, and their families, the young Confederates, met, prayed together and set off on the long journey to Raleigh where they had to go enlist at the state capital. Hi was 23 years old, and others in his group were even younger although there were a few middle-aged men as well.

Since the Confederate States of America did not provide horses for their soldiers, the men had to ride their own personal mounts. Hi rode his horse, Roan, to war. Roan was a large sorrel horse, about 18 hands high and bred on the plantation to be a saddle horse. He was a beautiful reddish-brown color and could run like the wind. The horse had actually won several local races and was worth a lot of money. He and Hi had grown up together and had a very close bond, and Hi felt safe knowing that Roan was going to be with him in the war.

As they made their way toward Raleigh, the soldiers thought often of their wives and families and how much they would miss them. They would also miss their farms.  Hi had inherited his father’s plantation and loved it dearly. He loved the land itself as only farmers do, and it was no wonder that his crops had made him wealthy because they were successful year after year. Naturally, he worried about how the farm would fare in his absence, but he had every confidence in Mr. English, the overseer, who was his trusted friend. He would take care of the farm as if it were his own. His thoughts wandered again to his beautiful young wife, Allie, who was expecting their first child, and he vowed to write to her daily.  Hi had no idea of what awaited him.


By Julie Terry Cartner

Taking a deep breath, I step across the barrier, leaving the stresses of the day behind and entering my refuge, the place where I can, at least temporarily, leave the rigors of the world behind. At the moment, everything is still; only the murmuring water of the creek breaks the silence. With gentle footsteps, I enter the woods, following the path provided by the deer and other wildlife. Walking down the age-old pathways, I allow my mind to go where it will, ruminating over my day, my life, the world, and the awesome wonder of God. Streaks of late afternoon sunlight filter through the leaves of the budding trees, creating a cathedral of beauty. In this peaceful place, I wonder how there can be cruelty, pain, fear, anguish and death, for here in God’s temple, I see peace, beauty, and love.

As I continue down the path, I arrive at my destination, a place where the water cascades over the rocks providing a small waterfall.  I sit, leaning back against the rough hewn bark of a cedar tree, and wait.  The filtered sunlight warms my back while a whisper of breeze brushes against my face. I allow my mind to be free of all restraints and to wander as it will, soon absorbing the serenity of the woodlands. Before long, my patience is rewarded and the silence is broken, first by the chirping of birds, followed by the rustling leaves as the woodland animals resume their activities. Birds flit from branch to branch, keeping watch over the intruder, then, with my absence of movement, disregard me as of little consequence. A squirrel peeks around the trunk of a tree like a child playing hide-and-seek.  Determining that the danger has passed, he carries on with his business of foraging for food, a pirate re-discovering his cache of nuts hidden last fall. A turtle suns himself on a rock, once again allowing his head to emerge from his shell. Soon they are joined by rabbits and chipmunks, and the silent woods are once again filled with life.

As the purple-edged dusk begins to settle over the woods, my statue-like silence is rewarded as the first deer walks timidly to the creek. With her nose hunting for scent, she knows I am there, but she senses no motion, and within minutes, she is followed by others. The does allow their babies to step into the clear, cool water and quench their thirst. As the fawns gambol in the pool of water on rickety legs, the mothers look on indulgently, always alert, always wary but still calm. In other places there are hunters, but the deer seem to have discerned that this is a safe place.

Soon the darkness descends, and I must leave my haven.  Retracing my steps, I follow the creek’s meandering course until I exit the woods.  Taking one last deep breath and a final look back, I resume the mantle of responsibility that comes with the day to day cares of life. While I walk across the pasture, I hear the first calls of the coyotes echoing through the night’s air.  My peaceful interlude has ended as they cry to each other preparing for the night’s hunt.  I whisper, almost to myself, “Take care, my woodland friends. I hope to see you again tomorrow.”

A Heart of Steel

“The Payphone” an excerpt

By Stephanie Dean

Steele’s friend Sandy answered her phone tentatively as if with concern.


“Hey Sandy, It’s Steele. I’m sorry to awaken you.”

“That’s ok. What’s wrong?”

“I’m calling you from the pay phone at the Krystal. David came home from work drunk again, and I had to leave. Mom’s keeping Daniel overnight, and I wondered if I could come stay at your house. “

“Sure, of course. I’ll get up, unlock the door and turn on the outside light for you. What are you going to do?”

“I’m not sure now as I really wasn’t prepared to have to leave tonight, but I know I’m not going back.  I’ll have to go back sometime tomorrow though to get my things and then go look for an apartment I guess.”

In her mind, Steele had planned her safe escape many times, but she had not put the plan into action and was now caught off guard.

“Well don’t worry, you can stay here as long as you need to.”

Steele had just started the new job at the drug and alcohol rehabilitation center and was earning a decent hourly wage as charge nurse. She could now afford to move out and rent a small place. Steele didn’t want to impose on Sandy as she and her husband Gary were having their own marital problems and had recently separated due to his continued philandering.   Sandy was one of Steele’s best friends from high school and had a daughter Nicole who the same age as Steele’s son Daniel.  Sandy and Steele often met at the playground so the kids could swing. For a long while, Sandy had encouraged Steele to divorce David after learning of the abuse.

“You are welcome to use the phone in my car,” a strange, masculine voice said.

Still on the pay phone, her back toward the stranger, surprised, Steele turned around to face him. The man was the same one from whom she had borrowed coins. She felt a sense of apprehension.

“Sandy, I have to go, but will be there shortly,” Steele said before hanging up the pay phone.

“What did you say?” Steele asked the man as she took a few steps back.

“I said I have a phone in my car if you need to make more calls.” the stranger said.

Steele slowly backed away towards the door of the restaurant, keeping the man in her sight.

There was no such thing as a phone in a car.  He must be crazy or maybe he was trying to get her in his car, she thought.

“Oh yeah right. Well, thank you but I don’t think you have a phone in your car.”

The man was wearing a long, tan trench coat and his personal grooming was lacking. His eyes were bloodshot and his hair disheveled. Steele thought he must be a street person.

Steele didn’t want to walk to her car in the dark parking lot with the strange man following her so she went in Krystal. She had a few coins in her pants pocket. Steele approached the counter and pulled out the money to count. She had about a dollar in change, enough for three Krystal burgers. Steele sat down in a booth and began to eat when the man slid in across from her. Chewing the burger, her jaw stopped moving, and she said nothing. The man reached for one of the little cartons. He pulled out the tiny burger and began to eat it. Steele’s eyes widened, but she said nothing, believing he must be hungry.

“I really do have a phone in my car.”

“OK. I’m sure you do. I don’t need to make a call now.” Steele said kindly.

“My name is Bill. I own a construction company here.”

“Really? That’s cool. Nice to meet you, Bill,” Steele said. She didn’t believe a word he said.

“What are you doing here all by yourself so late at night?” the man asked her.

“I just stopped here to make a phone call, that’s all,” Steele answered.

He pulled a business card out of his pocket, placed it on the table and slid the card across the table to Steele.

“Here, take my card. You can call the number in the morning to check me out.”

Steele picked up the card, looked at it and said nothing, not wanting to aggravate the delusional man. He stood up to leave and asked her,

“Are you sure you’re ok? Are you sure you don’t need any help?”

“No, I’m good, but thank you,” Steele replied.

How was a street person going to help her? The stranger then left the restaurant, got in his car and drove off in a late-model sedan. Steele sat there dumbfounded and pondered the weird encounter. She stared at his business card with phone numbers listed for both office and car. Dewitt Construction. If he had a phone in his car, she was an orangutan’s aunt. Steele finished the remainder of her burger then got in the car and headed to her girlfriend’s house.