Tag Archives: Funny short stories

Post 34. Charlie

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The programme was full; early morning devotions, studies, talking to people on the street, conferences to attend, weekends away with local families, minimum work hours and exercise.  There wasn’t much time to sit around. 

The dining room was a good place to get to know our shipmates.   After discussing the weather we went on to the food.  It wasn’t amazing, but not even the greatest chef could have come up with more than 100 ways to cook “Suzi-Wan.”  In one of the ports, some very generous people donated 1000’s of tins of bean sprout/noodle/vegetable meals.  We had it in many forms.  Mainly disguised, but we weren’t fooled.   We found it in everything. 

I really tried hard not to complain.  Some people never stopped.  Once when I was helping to serve at the tables, one of the big grumblers really got to me.   I looked at him in the eyes, with my serving spoon full of Suzi-Wan and warned him that if he kept complaining I would pour it all over his head.  That was the end of that.  He knew I was serious. 

“Charlie” was the name of the ship’s small second hand clothing shop.  It was right next to the key-cutting, shoe-fixing workshop where the cute Kiwi guy worked.  I worked there for a couple of months and loved sorting through the rubbish to find treasure.  I was ruthless. 

Church groups did collections and boxes were delivered to the ship.   I had heard stories about missionaries being sent second-hand tea bags but I never believed it until I opened some of those boxes.; worse than used tea-bags were used toothbrushes.  

Us O.M.ers weren’t known for our sense of fashion for a few reasons.   

1. We were all there for a minimum of 2 years; clothes wear out. 

2. We were given $20 a month, if it was there; it often wasn’t.

3. When it was, we could buy a few treats; like souvenirs or junk food; we got fatter.  

4. We couldn’t save it because the currency changed with every country we sailed to and there was very little we could buy for $20; Charlie was free.

5. People thought we didn’t have any taste or style; we got the clothes they had been hoarding since World War 2.  

Maybe they wanted to put them on a ship so they would never come back.  

That way they would never have to remember how bad it got. 

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Post 31. Do your own dirty work.

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The crèche I had an agreement with, finally opened.  I had worked in Point Road for two and a half years; travelling in and out of one of the most infamous parts of Durban.   The children had won my heart and I was sad when my time was up.

The church crèche was a disaster for me.  It wasn’t a happy place and the teachers were all really uptight.  I stuck it out but it was hard to get up in the mornings.

After 9 months and just before I went insane, I got a half day receptionist job in a building society in Yellowwood Park.  It was combined with an estate agency.  It was a small branch and from day one I clicked with the “naughty” estate agents.  They reminded me of the kids I was working with; they lied, they always wanted their own way, they played “I’m the king of the castle and you’re the dirty rascal,” manipulated and seemed to be fixated on  underwear and private parts.

They would constantly ask me to lie for them.  I somehow managed to get around it until the day my boss told me to tell a client he wasn’t in.  I put the call through anyway and he wasn’t happy.  He called me into his office and asked me to close the door.  He was upset.  He asked me what had happened and why.  I lovingly and calmly told him that I would not be lying for him or any of the agents.  If they wanted to lie, they could do their own dirty work.  I pointed out to him that he could trust me.  If I wasn’t prepared to lie for him, he could be certain that I wouldn’t lie to him.  If he was happy with that deal, then I would be happy to stay on.  If not, I would have to leave.  He was happy with the deal.  The agents just had to agree.

I loved them and they loved me.  I could say anything to them because of that love.  When they were getting out of hand with their jokes I would ask them, with a smile on my face,  to please close their door and they did.  They listened and asked questions about my faith.  We laughed at ourselves and each other.  They gave me a hard time and teased me until we closed shop at the end of the day.

I went back years later to visit them.  The lady at the front desk asked me my name.  With a big smile on her face she said, “Oh, THE Linda Lowe; the one who wouldn’t lie. I’ve heard about you.”

I found it funny that a simple thing like honesty had made such a big impression.

Post 29. A few sizes up.

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The tour was on.  I was the sound mixer for New Song.  Our minivans were packed to capacity and there was always plenty of junk food.  We drove from city to city all over South Africa, Transkei, Botswana, Bophuthatswana and Rhodesia.  We set up in schools, churches, fields and any hall that would have us.

It was intense; packing and unpacking sound equipment into the trailer, setting up and doing hundreds of sound checks; rolling up cables and picking up heavy equipment.  I got the nickname “Schweppes” for being such a good mixer.  I wasn’t sure I deserved such a compliment.

We went into some scary places.  Hillbrow was something else.  It was the downtown of downtown Johannesburg.  There were so many lonely people who didn’t have family like I had.  They were lost and very alone.  I had taken my family for granted and hadn’t given a thought to how others lived.  My life had revolved around myself and mine.

People wanted to talk and tell us their woes. There were times when there were tears; from us and them.  After every trip into Hillbrow, I could feel my heart getting bigger.  I was able to take more and I was feeling something that I hadn’t felt before; compassion.

We walked through the townships of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth to call children for kid’s clubs.  Whenever we could, we set up a place for the young people to come and talk.  We saw lives changes in front of our eyes.   The more I saw, the more I realised that what I had was something beyond me.  It had the power to change lives forever.

Our trip into Rhodesia was interesting.  When we drove between towns, we had to go in convoy and in some areas we were told to duck down and hide.  We would lie there expecting to be shot at and we never really got used to being followed by armed men.  It was the end of the war.

In every place we stayed with local people.  We were treated like kings and queens and we made some lifelong friends.  I learnt the art of giving even when I didn’t feel like giving.  After concerts, when we were exhausted and ready for bed, our hosts would want to talk and open their hearts to us.  I learnt to go the extra mile and to make time to listen.

So, we ate and drank and worked hard.  There were conflicts which we learnt to sort out and personalities we just had to get on with.  We learnt to accept different cultures and realised that our way wasn’t always the best way.  There were adjustments and changes, and our hearts grew many times over.

By the end of the year there were lots of tears and promises to keep in touch.  Most of us were twice our size and it wasn’t just that we had more than one slice of bread after dinner.

I had only seen Wilf and Val once that year.  I was tired and I couldn’t wait to get home.  I walked into No 28, up the stairs and into the lounge.  I was surprised.  Everything had shrunk.

Post 27. No pork, no bacon

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I had NO idea what to do next.  I spent my “well deserved”  holiday a bit concerned.  I wasn’t qualified to go to college.  I didn’t want to anyway.  There was no way I wanted to work at the bank.   I was starting to wonder if I would end up in a supermarket, just as my maths teacher had said.

At the same time, there were three things I felt strongly about:   I had a feeling I wouldn’t marry a South African.  I had a feeling I would travel.  I had a feeling I would marry a pastor.

While I dated South African guys, I didn’t meet one  I wanted to marry.  Over the years there were a few serious proposals which I happily turned down.  Some were pastor-types.  Now they were interesting. One took me out for dinner. Forget about “should you kiss on your first date?”  He proposed to me all the way home and kept going at the gate.  He talked about a how I could help him in his ministry.  What an asset I would be to him.  He was desperate.  I was desperate too.  I couldn’t wait to get out of the car.  He became pretty famous- for doing the wrong thing.

Another one was a full on, “no pork, no bacon” type.  We had met at joint youth camps over the years.   He was the most eligible pastor’s son and in much demand among the young girls.  I needed a partner for a banquet so I plucked up all the courage I could find to call him.  He courteously told me he was dating someone but something could be arranged.   He called the next day to say he was available.  After lots of interrogation as to how it happened, I had a date.

He had a fancy sports car and Val made sure he got lots of avocado sandwiches.  He kept coming back.  He didn’t like that I wore earrings or make-up. He tried to convince me that eating bacon was the cause of my bad eyesight.  There were lots of rules and regulations except for the ones that really mattered.  We argued about everything and we didn’t last long.

A lot of time was spent getting them to keep their hands to themselves.  They didn’t make it easy for me to stick to my guns.  It wasn’t my  fault I was “so irresistible.”

I knew what I wanted, and it wasn’t that.

In our youth group, we were encouraged to write down the qualities that we wanted in a husband.  My list was long. It was a perfect description of Jesus; except he played a guitar.

Post 26. “I have NO idea.”

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I thought I would die of sadness when Lindy and her family left for the States. We were 15.  It was as if my life had come to an end.  We wrote tear-filled letters to each other for about two years.  Brenda was my first best friend and Lindy was my second.  I wasn’t sure how my faith would hold up without her.Mondays were especially difficult for me.  The girls came back to school after a weekend of partying.  They asked me what I had done and who I had slept with.  There were many discussions about virginity and the loss of it.  They just couldn’t understand why I had decided to wait until I got married.

My subjects were Biblical Studies, French, English, History, Biology and Afrikaans.  I kicked myself over and over for not taking Domestic Science and Typing instead of French and History.  I wanted to be in Lindy’s class.  Then she went and left.

So much had changed, but I couldn’t seem to stay out of trouble. There was still lots of messing around in class.  I was totally unprepared for my final exams and I did a lot of cramming and crying days before writing.  There was NO WAY I wanted to repeat a year of school.

Gymnastics

To add to my distractions I was a gymnast.   I could tie myself in knots.  Wilf said the circus was NOT an option so I worked hard and qualified for the National Gymnastics Championships instead.  I never could point my toes properly and skipped all my ballet classes so I didn’t win a medal.  I kept doing it anyway.  Just for fun.

I was always first to finish my paper.  I filled in whatever I could and then put my head on the desk and slept.  Some questions were answered with “I have NO idea.”

Everyone was convinced I would fail.  They expected me to be back the following year.

It was a miracle that I scraped through,  by the skin of my teeth. When I walked out of those gates for the last time, they were amazed.  There was a song on my lips.  It was deep and profound.  I sang it loud and I sang it proud:

No more school

No more stick

No more dirty arithmetic

If the teacher interferes,

Turn around and box her ears

If she wakes up in the night

Blow her up with dynamite.

With that, my school years ended.

Post 25. Bev

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I was impressed with Dave for not fishing from my friendship pool and catching such a good fish.  Mowat Park Girls were having their matric dance and Bev Sumpton needed someone to go with her.  Dave was more than willing.  

We loved Bev.  She became part of our family and slept over most weekends.  It was fun to have another sister.   We tanned, swam, shopped and bathed together.  Sue, her and I would squeeze into our little bath and soak and talk for as long as we could.  We laughed so much at how Bev would wash her face with soap and sit and talk to us with mascara running down her cheeks.  

Mr and Mrs Sumpton were interesting.  Gloria was big and Clarry was small.  He wore a patch over his left eye and was always working in his garage.  When Gloria called, he dropped everything; immediately.  We went there to put our feet up, but Gloria wouldn’t let any of us sit down for long.  If there was food to make, we all had to help.  If there was a dirty cup it had to be washed, and dried. No laziness allowed.   She was definitely the boss. 

They were funny too.  We visited them on their small farm a few times.  They had a big black pig called Lesley, a lamb, a monkey and lots of dogs.  After our goodbyes we drove down the long drive and out onto the dusty road.  Wilf looked in his rear view mirror and told us all to turn around.  There was fat Lesley, the lamb and all the dogs chasing our car down the road.  We laughed all the way home.  They also had a parrot which followed them all around the house like a puppy. 

Bev could never stay awake in a movie.  Within the first five minutes she would be fast asleep.  They would go to the Drive-IN and sleep through the entire movie.  They were woken up by the security guard and found they were the only ones there. 

Dave was called up to do his army training and Bev was devastated.  We all were.  They wrote letters and she cried which made us cry. 

They survived the two years of separation.  Bev went on to work at the bank and Dave continued at the Daily News.  They fought, then broke up, then made up.  I was worried she wouldn’t come back but she always did.  They couldn’t stay apart for long.    

The thing I was happy with was that she was going to be my friend no matter what.  For a change, I had stolen a girlfriend from Dave.

Post 24. Rigby

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Our lives had changed in so many ways. Sue decided that enough was enough and walked out of school just before her matric year.  She got a job at Barclays Bank in town.  She was FREE.  Dave also left school and got a job at the Daily News as an apprentice printer.

Wilf and Val were doing the best they could with their teenage kids.  I’m sure they wished we would just go back and play in the drains.  There were boyfriends and girlfriends and a lot of comings and goings.  Dad didn’t like any of our boyfriends and he made that pretty obvious.

Sue started to come to church with me and things changed big time for her.    We decided we wanted to be baptised.  What a performance there was.  All the christening photos were brought out and we were informed that we had already been baptised.  Thank you very much.  They finally came round and reluctantly agreed that we had no idea what we were doing, all dressed up in our christening gowns.  We could barely see let alone believe.

Well, they came for our baptism. Wilf cried through the whole thing and it wasn’t long after that they were both born again.  Peter joined them and Dave was always somewhere nearby, not wanting to be left out.  We were a happy family once again.

Sue’s old flame, Rigby, was doing his compulsory 2 year army training.  They hadn’t seen each other since they were 16.  A common friend told Rigby that Sue had gone “all religious.”  He wrote to her to find out.  Lindy and I heard he was going to meet Sue, outside her bank, for lunch on Saturday.  He had a weekend pass.  We saw him there way ahead of time and we ran up to tell Sue that he was downstairs.  She told us to stop spying.  Well we didn’t stop.  We watched them from across the road. They walked into the Golden Egg Restaurant at 320 West Street.  It was so romantic.  He went back to finish his training and we didn’t see him for a while.

One day when we were having fun in the pool, Rigby walked up our drive-way in his army uniform.  He looked so handsome.  Dad was still cautious but mum welcomed him with open arms and a toasted avocado sandwich.  There was lots of talk.  I liked him.  He talked a lot about his baby sister Tiffany who he loved to bits and his big sister Vanessa who he didn’t see much.   Their mum died of cancer when Tiffany was three.  He told us about his stepmother and his step sisters.  It sounded like a Grimm’s fairytale to me.

He wanted to know all about our family.  There was lots of talk about our new found faith.  He wanted to know everything.  We happily gave him everything.   I mean everything.  I thought we wouldn’t see him again.  One rainy night on his way back to camp, he cried to God about his wasted life and got a new one.

Whoever would have thought that a chocolate crunchy could have caused all that?

(See- Dad was a D.J)