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A Year of Cancellations | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 30, 2020:

Happy Chinese New Year RatMy first column of this year was titled “Welcome 2020!” I mentioned that a number of marketing firms seemed poised to launch ad campaigns reminiscent of the Roaring 20’s of the last century. I followed that up by saying “It remains to be seen whether the next ten years roar or whimper.” We have nine and a half years to go, but so far this decade has involved a lot of whining on my part.

The first ten weeks of the year went pretty well. There were rumors and stories about a strange new virus, but aside from a new subject for the talking heads on the news reports to discuss and a few interesting sound bites from opposing politicians, it didn’t sound like anything that would affect the list of activities on the white board on our refrigerator. (more…)

God’s Choir | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Community Chronicle in the June, 2020 edition and the Rains County Leader on June 23, 2020:

Porch gliderLast year, our front porch began to list to the southeast. Investigation showed that the support post on that corner was rotting away. We discussed our options with a local handyman, and several months and several thousand dollars later, we had a beautiful covered porch furnished with an indoor/outdoor rug, two padded rocking chairs and a comfy glider for two. We have spent many happy hours on our new addition, especially during this time of social distancing when God has blessed us with a lot of porch-sitting weather.

One morning, I was rocking and reading when I was distracted by a birdsong I didn’t Birdsongrecognize. It sounded like someone had pressed a key on a synthesizer and held it for a couple of seconds. The song continued for a minute or two with brief breaks between notes, but I was never able to find the singer. While I was looking for him, I noticed another bird singing what could have been a riff from a doo-wop song. I closed my book for a while and just listened, and I heard more birdsongs than I could count. (more…)

Being a slave to the clock | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 9, 2020:

blackberry-cobblerA recent post on Facebook described a perfect example of how our attitude toward time has changed in the last few months. Around 8:30 one evening, the husband of a friend mentioned there were blackberries in the refrigerator that needed to be used before they ruined. About forty-five minutes later as she was putting a cobbler in the oven, he commented that they probably shouldn’t be eating something like that so late in the evening. Her Facebook post read “If he thinks I’m pulling a warm cobbler out of that oven and not eating a bite tonight, he has another think coming.” A later comment indicated that he did think again and that they both had some cobbler before bed. David and I go through a similar routine almost every night now.

Pre-isolation, we had a busy schedule. On Monday mornings we stopped by the church so David could upload Sunday’s sermon to the website and send it to the radio station, on Wednesday morning I went to Ladies’ Bible Study, and Thursdays mornings Bingo began at 9:30 at the Senior Center. Even on non-Bingo days, we tried to make it to the Center by 11:00. Lunch was served from 11:00 to 12:30, but everyone seemed to eat early, and by 11:30 or so the place was empty. (more…)

Living in Fear, Part 2 | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on May 12, 2020:

RIPHas anyone ever asked you if you’re afraid of death? I think all of us have dealt with that question at some time in our lives, even if it was only in our own minds. My stock answer has been, “I’m not afraid of dying, but I don’t look forward to the process.” Twice in my life I’ve had a chance to test the validity of that answer, and I’d say it pretty much passed the test.

The first incident happened about fifteen years ago while we were living in Florida. I woke up around 4:00 am feeling really odd. There was no pain, but I felt as if someone was doing a very uncoordinated tap dance in my chest. David was dabbling in currency trading at that time and often rose very early to check the foreign exchanges before they closed. I lay in the darkness for a while, taking a mental inventory of symptoms and feelings, and finally went into the office. (more…)

Living in Fear, Part 1 | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on May 5, 2020:

The End Is NearAt the risk of being melodramatic, I had a momentary brush with death this week. I’m fine, but of course, I wanted to write about the experience. Before I tell you about it, though, I want to share my feelings about fear. Here’s a piece I wrote a few weeks ago; check back next week for the rest of the story. How’s that for a teaser?

***

The first time I remember being scared of an apocalyptic event was in the late 1950s. I was in the fifth grade, and some small-time prophet predicted the end of the world. I had been in Bible-teaching churches all my life, but my Sunday School lessons hadn’t yet covered end-time prophecies. And if we had studied the part where Jesus says that no one knows the day or the hour of the end except God, I had been day-dreaming that day. For whatever reason, I lived in fear for a while, casting furtive glances into the clouds during recess until the prophesied doomsday had passed.

Since then, the world has survived many end-of-the-world predictions, from the Protective clothingscientific community as well as the prophetic community. According to those forecasts, we should have long since been choked to death by pollution, frozen by a new ice age, drowned by the rising oceans, fried by the loss of the ozone layer, or suffered a worse fate at the hands of an angry God. There were also wars in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq as well as epidemics like the Asian Flu, Hong Kong Flu, HIV/AIDS, SARS, Ebola, Swine Flu (H1N1), and whatever new type of flu that was impervious to the previous year’s vaccine. (more…)

Tatia’s Tattoo – Chapter 14 – A New Identity. Read it here!

As Eric took everything from her, even her name, she learned that compliance was the only way to survive.

For the past few weeks I have been sharing sample chapters of Tatia’s Tattoo. Links to previous chapters are at the end of this post. Following is Chapter 14. Chapter 15 will be posted on Sunday.

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CHAPTER 14: A NEW IDENTITY

The next time Tatia saw Eric after the beating, he was attentive and as sweet to her as if nothing had happened. First, he took her to the mall where he bought her a pair of high-heeled, knee-high boots and a sassy mini dress. Then, they visited the cosmetics department at one of the anchor stores where he seemed to know several of the girls behind the counter.

“Hi, Eric,” cooed a gorgeous redhead named Kitty. “What can I do for you today?” she asked suggestively.

“Kitty, this is Tatia. It’s time to get rid of the little girl look and go with something more sophisticated,” he explained. “She also has a new outfit. I’d appreciate it if you’d show her to one of your dressing rooms where she can change. I’ll be back in thirty minutes to pick her up.” With that, he spun on his heels and walked out, leaving Tatia standing alone in the middle of the aisle looking confused.

“Don’t worry, honey,” said Kitty. “You’re in expert hands. Have a seat on that stool while I pull a few samples together.”

For the next few minutes, Kitty skillfully applied a light-weight foundation, translucent powder, blush, and a staggering array of eye make-up. Some of the brushes tickled, and Tatia thought again of the butterfly Jesse had painted on her cheek a few short months ago. She pushed the thought away, though, as Kitty looked at her curiously and dabbed a tear away from the corner of her eye.

At each step, Kitty explained what she was doing so Tatia would be able to duplicate the look on her own later. When she was satisfied with the results, she released Tatia’s blonde curls from the ponytail she wore and fluffed them with her hands until they fell softly around her face. She surveyed her work and smiled.

“Good! Now, let’s go get you dressed.”

When Eric returned a few minutes later, he whistled appreciatively and said, “Now that’s what I’m talking about. Thanks, Kitty. Put it on my bill.”

“Don’t worry,” she grinned. “I will.”

Tatia followed him through the mall and out to the parking lot, glancing in the windows at a reflection she hardly recognized.

“Thanks for the new look, Eric,” she said as she climbed into the car.

“You’ll earn it,” he said without looking at her.

Yeah, that’s what I figured, she thought to herself.

Instead of driving straight to the motel, he pulled into an old strip center and stopped in front of a narrow establishment with a neon sign that said “Coffee Shop” in the window. She followed him in and was surprised at the trendy-looking interior. There were three small tables and a comfortable seating area in the corner by the window. A well-equipped serving bar was tucked into the back corner, and the tantalizing aroma of fresh-roasted coffee beans filled the air.

“Hi, Eric,” greeted the barista behind the counter. “What’ll it be?”

“A double espresso for me and a decaf mocha for the lady – as soon as she returns from the ladies’ room.”

“Coming right up, Eric. Miss, the restroom is just past the bar on the right. Ignore the sign on the left stall and use that one.”

Tatia followed instructions without question, assuming she was about to pay for her afternoon at the mall. She found the restroom and walked in, expecting to find a client waiting for her. Instead, the room was unoccupied. The left stall sported an out-of-order sign, so Tatia opened the door and peeked in. As she stepped inside, she heard a buzzer sound somewhere behind the side wall, and the wall swung away, revealing a hidden room.

“You must be Tatia,” said a voice from the darkness in the corner. “Come on in and have a seat.”

She wasn’t sure what she was stepping into, but she did as she was told and sat down on the small stool that was a few feet in front of what looked like a camera. The voice and the man who owned it stepped behind what really was a camera, made a few adjustments, and said “Smile.” She smiled and was momentarily blinded by a flash. “Okay. That’ll do. Go enjoy your coffee, and I’ll have this out in a few minutes.”

Totally confused, she retraced her steps into the coffee shop and made her way toward the seating area in the corner. Eric was sitting on a latte-colored leather sofa, talking with a distinguished looking older man who was in a matching chair that was set at a right angle to the sofa. The older man rose as she approached, and she smiled, wondering if this was her next client.

“Tatia,” said Eric, “this is Joseph. Joseph, Tatia.”

“Hello, Joseph.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Tatia.”

Eric patted the sofa next to him. “Have a seat,” he said. “Have you ever had a decaf mocha?”

“No.”

He picked up a steaming cup from the table and handed it to her. “Let me know what you think.”

She sipped the chocolaty liquid and smiled. “It’s delicious. Thanks, Eric.”

He patted her on the leg in a proprietary manner. “Enjoy,” he said as he resumed his chat with the man who was sitting in the chair beside him.

Tatia could tell they were talking business, so she tried to shut them out. She occupied herself with her new favorite drink and with enjoying a few more minutes without having to sell her body.

She had just finished her mocha and was wondering what was next when the barista walked out to the table. “Excuse me, Miss. I believe you dropped this in the restroom.” He held out a small laminated card, and Tatia took it from him.

“Thanks,” she said as she looked down and saw a picture of herself staring back at her. She realized she was holding a Texas driver’s license that said her name was Kaitlyn Golden and that she was nineteen years old. She looked at Eric with a question in her eyes.

He glanced at her and said, “Put that in your purse and try not to be so careless with it.”

“Sure, Eric.”

“Come on. Play time’s over,” he said, standing and shaking hands with Joseph. She followed Eric to the car, thinking about the difference between this afternoon and the last time she had been with him. She was learning that the more money she made for him and the more compliant she was, the better he would treat her. She knew there was no way out, at least in the foreseeable future, so she made up her mind to smile and pretend to welcome each new customer.

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3| Chapter 4|Chapter 5 |Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 |Chapter 11| Chapter 12 | Chapter 13

Blessings,

Linda

Hidden Assets | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on April 21, 2020:

Grocery rouletteTwo weeks ago I wrote about Grocery Roulette, also known as curbside pickup. First, there is a disclaimer that items that were available when the order was placed may not be available when the order is filled. And second, shoppers are encouraged to allow substitutions meaning, if what you ordered isn’t available, your personal shopper can choose something close. It sounded pretty much like a game of chance to me.

My first order went pretty well. Eight items were missing altogether, but the few substitutions were acceptable. And I got a bonus! When I was putting my groceries away, I found a box of frosted flakes. I thought it was a substitute for the cereal I had ordered, but when I pulled out a bag of bagels, I was totally confused because I hadn’t ordered any kind of bread. That was when I realized I had a bag from someone else’s order. (more…)

Tatia’s Tattoo – Read Chapter 11 Here!

Tatia’s childhood ends on her 12th birthday as she becomes another sad statistic.

For the past few weeks I have been sharing sample chapters of Tatia’s Tattoo. Links to previous chapters are at the end of this post. Following is Chapter 11. Chapter 12 will be posted on Thursday.

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CHAPTER 11: STATISTICS

Eric stomped over to the connecting door and flung it open. “Cindy,” he yelled, “Get in here!”

“I’m with a client!”

“Well, hurry it up,” he replied as he slammed the door.

Three minutes later, Cindy came through the door. She didn’t look happy. “What was that all about? Thanks to the interruption, he didn’t even leave a tip.”

Eric grabbed the front of her robe and pulled her up close enough for her to smell what he had for dinner. “Watch your mouth! You can be replaced, you know.”

“Okay, okay. I’m just trying to keep the customers happy. What did you need anyway?”

“I need you to get Tatia ready for her nine o’clock. She’s in the bathroom bawling – and she’ll need something to wear.”

Cindy scanned the room quickly, not missing the rumpled, stained sheets and the torn dress lying on the floor. “Been sampling the merchandise, huh?” she smirked, scurrying back to her room before he could swing the fist he raised threateningly.

“One day you’ll push me too far!” he yelled as he kicked a small silver sandal across the floor and stormed out the door into the parking lot.

Cindy peeked back into the room a minute later and, seeing that the coast was clear, she came in carrying her make-up bag and a robin’s-egg-blue baby-doll nightie. She knocked gently on the bathroom door and called out quietly.

“Hey, honey. It’s me – Cindy. Can I come in?”

The door opened slowly, and Tatia, sobbing and wrapped in a towel, threw herself into Cindy’s arms. “Oh, Cindy. Why did he do that to me? I thought he cared about me. And when he says I have to be nice to his friend, he doesn’t mean…that, does he? I wish I was dead!”

Cindy, definitely not the motherly type, patted Tatia’s back awkwardly, making what she hoped were soothing, calming sounds. “Don’t cry, baby. He’s just like that sometimes, especially when he drinks. His friend won’t be so bad. He’s gettin’ old, and he’ll be done and gone before you know it.”

Her reassurances didn’t help. Tatia drew back in horror. “NO! I won’t do it. He can’t make me.”

“Honey, you don’t want to cross him. He can get real nasty when he doesn’t get what he wants.” She had moved closer to Tatia and encouraged her sit down on the toilet seat. While she dabbed at Tatia’s smeared make-up, her robe fell open revealing a huge bruise on her thigh. Tatia reached out a tentative finger and touched the purplish mark that looked strangely like a hand.

“Did he do that to you?”

“Yeah, but I probably deserved it. I can get pretty mouthy in case you hadn’t already noticed.”

The color drained out of Tatia’s face as her eyes fell on the sheer nightie and she realized the hopelessness of her situation. “Do I have to wear that?”

“Honey, I know it’s not as fancy as that little black number, but it will look sensational on you – much better than it does on me. The blue will really bring out your eyes. Now slip it on and then I’ll see if I can straighten your hair a bit.”

Tatia did as she was told, moving mechanically and keeping her back to the mirror. At the same time, Cindy unwrapped one of the plastic glasses on the bathroom counter and filled it with water. She pulled a small bottle out of her pocket and shook a tiny pill into her hand. She broke it in half, popped half of it in her mouth and held the other half out to Tatia along with the water.

“Here ya’ go. This is just a little something to take the edge off.” Tatia started to object, but Cindy shushed her and continued. “It’s just a mild sedative, nothing that’s gonna hurt you. It’ll just help you deal with everything. It’s a lot for a kid your age. How old are you anyway?”

Tatia took the pill and washed it down with a swallow of water. “Twelve. Today’s my birthday,” Tatia said almost too quietly for Cindy to hear.

Cindy’s face flushed, first with anger and then with tears that threatened to spill over her carefully-lined lids. Then, she visibly pulled her emotional armor back in place and produced a small tube from the other pocket.

“Here, take this. Rub it around, you know, down there. It’ll kind of numb that area so it doesn’t hurt so much. All the new girls use it.”

“All the girls?” Tatia asked, eyes wide with disbelief. “You mean there are more?”

“Oh, yeah! Eric has a stable of a couple dozen fillies. You’re the finest one he’s brought in so far, though.” She knew she’d said too much when Tatia’s eyes became glistening pools, putting her freshly applied make-up at risk. “Now, now, don’t you worry yourself about any of that. Like I said, I let my mouth run away with me sometimes. Just take a deep breath and think how happy Eric will be with you after his friend leaves.”

Cindy went over to the bed and began straightening the disheveled sheets.

“Cindy?”

“Yeah, honey.”

“I don’t know what to do.”

Cindy made a strange noise – something between a sob and a laugh. “Don’t worry about that. He’ll know, and he’ll tell you what he wants you to do. And don’t be afraid of this one. He’s pretty easy to please.”

A soft knock at the door made both girls freeze in place, looking into each other’s faces. Cindy saw the terror in Tatia’s eyes, so she winked and said, “Relax and enjoy the ride. You look stunning, and you’ll be amazed at the power you have. See ya’ later.” Before Tatia could reply, Cindy scooted through the connecting door and closed it quietly behind her.

As that door closed, the front door opened a few inches, and a soft voice said, “May I come in?”

Tatia relaxed a little bit when she heard Eric’s voice, but she tensed and stared at the floor as he approached her. She flinched slightly as he reached out and put his index finger under her chin.

“Tatia?” he said tentatively.

He sounded like the Eric she thought she knew, so she allowed him to lift her face until she was looking into his eyes. “I am so sorry I hurt you before. The last thing I want to do is see you unhappy or in pain. You believe that, don’t you?”

She wanted to lash out at him, demanding that he take her home immediately, but she remembered the fear in Cindy’s eyes and the bruise on her leg. There was also a part of her that wanted to believe him, to go back to the way they were yesterday, so she nodded her head and let him draw her into a tender embrace. She laid her head on his chest and felt the vibrations of his voice as he continued to talk.

“This is hard for me, too, you know. I can hardly stand the thought of you with another man, and if there was any other way, I’d take it. But after he’s gone, things will go back to the way they were. Okay?”

She nodded, and he lifted her face again, stared into her eyes for what seemed like an eternity, and brushed her lips lightly with his. The moment was exactly the birthday kiss she had imagined, except that she was in a borrowed nightie instead of her beautiful new dress, and she was about to become one more statistic in the sex-trafficking industry in a small Texas town.

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital ($.99) or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10

Blessings,

Linda

And it was good! with Stacy Rolen, Guest Columnist

Published in the Rains County Leader on April 14, 2020:

writers blockThe coronavirus isolation has not been kind to my creativity. I write about people and life and community, and my community is now limited to David and Kitty. I love them both dearly, and they provide plenty of writing material – but I’ve used most of the good stuff in my books, so I depend on outside contacts for inspiration. Consequently, when I sat down at my computer Sunday afternoon, I would write a sentence, delete it, and go to the kitchen to do a little prep work for dinner.

This went on until everything was in either the oven or the InstantPot, and I was giving serious thought to running an old column. Then I clicked over to Facebook and saw a post from Stacy Rolen, wife of Pastor Jason Rolen, both of Believers’ Baptist Church. As I read her thoughts about Easter in isolation, I wanted to share her words with my readers. I messaged her, and she graciously agreed to be a guest columnist this week.

By way of explanation, Believers’ has been doing drive-in church for several weeks. TylerDrive in churchJones, BBC worship leader and media expert, pre-records Pastor Jason’s message and several praise songs which he then submits to KRER 102.5. On Sunday mornings, the church family gathers on the parking lot where they stay in their cars and attend church through the magic of radio.

One last note – the Rolen family is made up of Jason, Stacy, Bree Allie who is a junior at Alba-Golden where Stacy teaches, and Brady – aka Bubba – who is working on his masters degree at Dallas Baptist University in Dallas. Following is a look into Easter with Rolens – and it’s very good.

We talked this week about how crazy it felt to not have the same kind of Easter morning we have had for every year of our lives. For the first time ever, there would be no plans made of what to wear, who gets up when to make this sunrise service, this breakfast, this praise team practice, this Sunday School class, or that service. We decided that we would just sit on the deck to see the sunrise together, in the quiet and the still. And it would be good!

Then the alarm went off, and the rain hit against the roof, and the thunder roared. So we snuggled in tighter and snoozed. And snoozed. Slept five hours past Jason’s normal Sunday morning alarm. It was different, but it was good.

Finally got up and ready for the day. A different kind of Easter morning. No fanfare. Caught an early service message on TV, followed by our normal Sunday morning Spotify playlist – but this time we were at home, together, and it was good.

All showered, all dressed for a different kind of Easter. But it was good!

Rolens on EasterHow wonderful to see our church family! We miss everyone so much, but getting to gather in the parking lot for waves of hello to those whom we hold so dearly – it was beautiful! The smiles, the joy – it surely does the heart good! Then came Tyler’s voice over the radio, and I wept because it was beautiful. All this was followed by the reminder from Jason of the final act of humiliation which brought the first act of exaltation to Christ our Savior! A reminder that in these different days, our God is the same! He is still seated at the right hand of the Father. He is the same – yesterday, today, and forever. For He is risen indeed!

Easter 2020 will be a year to remember. We sure do miss our family today! We sure do miss the fellowship with our church family! I SURE DO miss my Bubba whom I haven’t seen in forever!!!

Times are different. But…things are still good. And that is beautiful! Love you all!

Thank you, Stacy, for sharing your Easter morning with us.

Blessings,

Linda

Kitty’s Story

Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road

He Is Risen! (Video – Then Came the Morning)

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.      Mark 16:1-6

 

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