The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 7:57 am Thursday, April 8, 2021

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By Julie Terry Cartner

“Ma’am, I’m lost. Can you help me?” The little boy, trying to look brave, gazed up at the saleslady, deep brown eyes brimming with tears. “My daddy was right there a minute ago, but he got lost.”

Smiling, Jayce looked at the waif and asked, “So is he lost, or are you?”

Now looking a little less shaky, he replied, “I guess he is. I know where I am. I’m standing right here talking to you.”

“Right you are,” Jayce responded. “What’s your name? I’m Jayce.”

“I’m Josh. I’m six and a half going on seven, and I go to Mocksville Elementary School. I’m in the first grade.” He spoke the words in a rush as if he needed to get them out in one breath.

Smiling at the child, Jayce replied, “Hi Josh, it’s nice to meet you. Now, let’s see if we can find your dad. What can you tell me about him?”

Taking the lady’s question very seriously, Josh answered. “Well, he’s very tall, taller than me, and everyone tells me I’m tall for my age. He’s got brown hair, but mom says he doesn’t have as much as he used to. When she says that, Daddy growls at her and chases her around the house. When he catches her, he pretends he’s mad at her, but they always end up kissing.” With that, Josh scrunched up his face in disgust as only a six-year-old boy can.  “They kiss all the time,” he confided to Jayce, “It’s gross.”

Biting back a laugh, Jayce asked, “What else can you tell me? What’s his name? Do you remember what he was wearing?”

“His name is Sam, Sam Waters, and he was wearing his green and black jacket. I remember because it’s really soft. He likes to tell jokes, and he gives great hugs. We were looking for a present for Mommy. Her birthday’s tomorrow.”

“Well Josh, let’s see if we can find your green and black jacketed Daddy who gives great hugs.” Taking Josh by the hand, Jayce looked around the busy store.  It didn’t take long since there was only one panicking man in a green and black plaid jacket looking frantically for his son. “Sam, over here,” Jayce called, and within seconds he was scooping his son into his arms and giving him one of those famous hugs while thanking her over and over.

Pleased with the outcome, Jayce went back to her job ringing up sales and assisting customers. The story ends here, but the message is timeless. Josh needed help, and in his six-year-old mind, it was simple. Ask for help. It is simple. Sometimes we need help.

The thing is most of us are better at giving help than receiving it. Most people like to help others but loathe asking. Looking at this logically, the balance needs to be equal. We can’t be helpers unless there’s someone to help. And the ironic thing is, asking others for help is a gift itself. People feel good about themselves when they’ve done something nice for others.

I remember one of my daughter’s soccer games. I had my toddler son with me when my daughter was tackled on the field and knocked unconscious. I had to get to her, but I was holding my sleeping child, and I was alone. I had to get to my daughter. I turned around and called out, “I need help. That’s my daughter.” Immediately several of the moms came down the bleachers, more than willing to do what they could.

It was a simple thing. I needed help. Asked. Received. They were glad to help, and I was grateful. And, as an added bonus, I now knew some of the other soccer moms.

There’s been a great deal of talk in the past year about taking care of each other, about living in a gentler and kinder world, about reaching out to others, all of which is important. But let’s also remember that it’s okay to ask for help. Be brave. Let others know what you need. Asking for help can give someone else a better day too.

An Old Store Journal

By Marie Craig

My father had two brothers. The family of five lived in Traphill, Wilkes County, N.C., from about 1906 to 1923.  The oldest son was given an old store journal which had some blank pages that were used by the family for several purposes. He wrote a short autobiography and mentioned his dad being born in Grayson County, Va., which aided me in my compiling of genealogy data.

When this uncle of mine died, his brother inherited this book. Then, when this uncle was downsizing in his 90s, he gave the old journal to me in 2007. I studied each page to learn more. The merchandise charged at the store was very interesting. Dates ranged from 1906 to 1916. These were some of the amazing items and costs listed: overcoat $7 and a credit of 1 stack of hay $4; Gold Dust Soap; shoes $2; bushel of wheat $1; and 1 pencil 5 cents. Other forms of barter were “thrashing 3 days”, “work in barn”, and “cutting tobacco.”

The names of people charging items led me to a search in the U.S. Census. I was able to find several families on public records at that time period. There was the top half of a printed invoice that gave me clues about the old store. “W.J. Key and Son, Dealers in General Merchandise, Ararat, N.C.”  It was dated July 22nd, 1914. I learned that this is in Surry County. I found the Key family in the census, and I also found a biography in the Surry County Heritage Book that described this old store and the father and son who owned it.

I drove to this area and stopped at a filling station. The employee told me that he knew where the store was and phoned the owner who was kind enough to drive to meet me, unlock the gate, and let me go to the store. It was very close to a large farm home. Both structures were old, unoccupied, and unsafe to enter. I have several photos of me holding this old journal next to the store where it was formerly housed.

After savoring the book, digitizing many of the pages, and researching the families, I donated the journal to the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. I also included a summary of my research. Perhaps this will be helpful in the future.

My unsolved part of the experience is how did a family in Traphill acquire a store journal from Ararat? The two communities are almost 40 miles apart, and there is no direct route between them. My grandfather never owned a car in his life, so he couldn’t have driven them to this store. Somehow, this old book traveled from store to uncle to uncle to me to museum.

A Smart Girl

By Gaye Hoots

Audra caught her breath and held it. The floor creaked with slow heavy footsteps. She strained to hear. The footsteps were heading in her direction. It was not time for the security guard to make his round to this hallway. Audra had done her homework carefully and knew the guard’s nightly routine. Who could this be and how had they gotten past the guard?

She ducked behind a row of file cabinets before the door opened. Light from a flashlight splayed over the room. A man dressed in dark clothing approached a computer terminal. There was something vaguely familiar in the way his shoulders rounded and the angle at which he tilted his head.

He turned a computer on and waited, then started making entries. Audra realized she was in a dangerous position. She had been working for Com Tech only six months. Her position as a technician was to organize and store data. This was accomplished by programs designed so that it was not necessary for the technicians to have any knowledge of the materials they handled. When a machine jammed or a scanner had to be loaded it was possible to view a page. The material appeared to be dry, technical, and boring. Once the data was stored the paper copies were shredded. Many different companies subscribed to Com Tech’s services.

Audra attached no importance to the information being processed until a few weeks ago. She had been dating a coworker and was falling in love with him. They had been spending most of their free time together. Doug had recently begun to distance himself. When Audra confronted him, he had told her there was something suspicious going on in the company they worked for. He had been asking questions and believed he was being scrutinized.

“This is for your own good. I want you to give notice. Tell people you have fallen for someone out of state and are moving to be near them. Get out of here and don’t look back. You are a smart girl. I shouldn’t have to draw you a picture,” he told her.

Audra believed him. She didn’t want to argue with him. She had deliberately slowed her work at times to look at the papers she handled. It looked innocent and benign. Audra had told a couple of coworkers she was considering a move. The decision to take a second look was driven by emotion. Doug was important to her and possibly in trouble. Audra knew there were security cameras in every room except the bathrooms. She believed it was impossible to enter after hours undetected. How had the man she was watching entered?

     Audra had accomplished this by punching out and then returning to the restroom where she had remained until everyone left.  She had brought a clean blouse and snacks in her shoulder bag. Her plan was to stay overnight and investigate. The security guard opened the doors to the offices on his rounds. He snapped the lights on and listened for a minute before continuing down the hall, he did not enter the room nor did he check the restrooms. There was a terminal at the guard’s desk connected to the cameras, but he was away making rounds most of the night. If something was amiss their security system left a lot to be desired.

     The man was still working at the computer. He worked for thirty minutes then exited just before the next scheduled security check. He evidently knew the guard’s schedule too. She could not be sure but the profile of the intruder was similar to one of the IT specialists she saw in the building on a regular basis. Why would he need to sneak in?

     The security guard entered and exited. Audra pictured the concern in Doug’s eyes as he warned her to leave. Something serious was going on here, something dangerous. She weighed her options and thought of her family. If she returned to the restroom and did not touch the computers, it was possible to wait until morning and go to work as usual. She probably would not be detected if she did not open a computer. The smart decision would be to tender her resignation as Doug urged her to do. “You’re a smart girl”, he had said.

     Audra weighed her option, took a deep breath, walked to the computer terminal the intruder used and turned it on.

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