Short Stories by: Phillip

Introduction: Here you will three short Stories written by a volunteer all the way from the UK – who wished to give some of his time and talent to uRise

Amy volunteers to help her two friends

“Why don’t you have a go at volunteering?” suggested Amy. 

Peter wrinkled his nose a bit, then said, “Can’t you see I’m busy?”

Amy smiled slightly, then said, “You know what they say: if you want something doing, ask a busy person.”

Peter felt mildly annoyed, “Oh, is that what they say? Really? Oh. Well, I didn’t know that. Anyway, I’m busy.”

“Exactly,” said Amy, “you’re a busy person. You like to keep busy. You said it yourself. Well, a bit of volunteering will keep you busy.”

“You’re a clever woman,” said Peter. “Very clever. Why don’t you do some volunteering? Why not you?”

“I already do,” said Amy, “in my own way.”

“Well, I simply don’t have the time,” said Peter. “Can’t we talk about something else?”

“We can if you like,” said Amy, carefully. 

“And?” said Peter.

“Well, I thought you might be interested in what Lucy was doing.”

Amy knew that Peter liked Lucy.

“And?” said Peter.

“And what?” said Amy, smiling to herself.

“And, what about Lucy?” said Peter.

“Well”, said Amy, “Lucy has started a new job.”

“Doing what?”

“She’s working in a community group,” said Amy. “You might say she has rather risen to the occasion.”

“Whatever do you mean?” said Peter.

“She works for this community group called ‘uRise’; she says it is the most fulfilling work she has ever done,” said Amy. 

“What’s so fulfilling about it?” asked Peter.

“Well, you know, it’s…” Amy hesitated to continue,”it’s…”

“It’s what?” asked Peter.

“Well, you know, it’s… well… it’s community work.”

“Community work? What kind of community work?”

“Well, you know, it’s… helping out the community. Very fulfilling. The only thing is…”

“The only thing is what?”

“The only thing is, mostly she’s working with other women, and…”

“And so?”

“Well, she was just saying the other day, she wishes she had some male company. You know. At work.” Amy smiled to herself, again. “Just to balance things up a bit. Some male company.”

“I see,” said Peter. 

“Yes,” said Amy. “Don’t get me wrong, Lucy loves her new job, very fulfilling and all that, she just… well… she misses a bit of male company.”

Peter went quiet for a long moment. Amy looked at the floor, trying to hide her smile.

“Well,” said Peter.

“Well,” said Amy.

“Well,” said Peter “what kind of community work is this? I mean, what does she do exactly? Is it a village community library or something? Lots of books. Is it very skilled? Lucy was always better than me at college. She always got better grades. A very intelligent girl, Lucy, she’s just so…”

“It’s not about being intelligent,” said Amy.

“Well, what about the money?” asked Peter.

“It’s not about the money,” said Amy.

“Well, what about the benefits? Pension scheme and all that?” asked Peter.

“It’s not about the pension scheme,” said Amy.

A little lightbulb went off in Peter’s head. “You’re a clever woman, Amy, very clever.”

Amy smiled. Peter smiled back at her.

The following day Peter volunteered to work at the uRise Community Center.

The following year Peter and Lucy were engaged to be married.

(Amy volunteered to be Lucy’s bridesmaid).

Something being said

It was a dull, overcast day, and the slightest of rain was pattering sadly on the old tin roof. ‘I wonder if it has some special rhythm’, thought Jack, ‘perhaps there is some secret message hiding in between each raindrop. Perhaps there is something being said.’

Jack shivered; it wasn’t just a dull rainy day, it was cold as well.

Jack had been homeless for almost a year now, and would often take shelter in this tiny tin shack on the edge of the ship-yard. It wasn’t exactly a home, certainly not that, but it was a bit of shelter from the rain. He wondered if any of the ship-workers knew he spent time in here; he thought they probably did.

When the weather was a bit warmer, Jack would wander the streets, looking at all the people, mostly. He wondered at their lives; everyone seemed so busy. Lots of busy people in a busy city. He imagined they all had nice homes to go to, with loving families. But then he reminded himself that life was not always so simple; there was much unhappiness in this world, even for busy people.

Occasionally Jack would pass someone in the street that he recognised as “one of his own”, that is to say a fellow homeless person. Occasionally their eyes would meet, and a pool of sadness would seem to pass between them. But Jack would never speak. Communicating with other people made him feel anxious, so he completely avoided it. He had not said a single word to anyone for almost a year, as if some terrible shame at his homeless condition had somehow rendered him dumb.

However, very occasionally, the world and it’s inhabitants would come to speak to him. Or at least reach out to him in some way.

On this particular day, Jack was listening to the rain tapping away on the old tin roof, when he heard a cheery voice: “I wondered if you’d like some cake?”

Jack was startled from his reverie, then cautiously poked his head outside of the shack. A ship-worker was stood there, holding a delicious-looking cake. Jack could smell it, and immediately knew he wanted it.

Jack and the ship-worker stared at each other. The ship-worker repeated his question, “I wondered if you’d like some cake?”

Jack nodded quickly.

“Well,” said the ship-worker, “I’ll just set it down here, and you can help yourself.”

After setting down the cake, the ship-worker started to walk away.

After walking some small distance, the ship-worker looked back over his shoulder, ever so slightly.

Jack hesitated for what seemed an eternity, then some part of him reached a decision: he called out after the ship-worker, “I meant to say… thank you!”

The ship-worker’s small act of kindness had set some wheels in motion, that the ship-worker couldn’t even guess at.

Rising Star

The first time that William was launched into outer space was utterly overwhelming; nothing could have prepared him for it. All of the training he had done on earth seemed trivial.

For years he had devoted himself to the space program, attending every conceivable seminar, and learning everything possible. In doing so, he had excluded himself from so much else in life: family, friends, relationships, community. He couldn’t imagine anyone as single-minded as he had become, and he was proud of this fact. “Stay focused, and you’ll reach the stars,” his father used to tell him.

And so he did; he reached the stars. He made it all the way out of the earth’s atmosphere, and suddenly there he was: in outer space. He marveled at the blue canopy of earth, and he shuddered at the blackness of space. He felt he was hovering somewhere between life & death; he was utterly awestruck at the majesty of it all. He didn’t know whether to feel fear or love or something else. Whatever it was, he knew he wanted to feel it for the rest of his life.

He decided on love. A love of humanity. A love for all the mundane details of everyday life. A love for the community.

Community. William pondered that word in outer space, and he pondered it, even more, when he returned to earth. Community. What did it really mean?

William realized, as never before, just how much his single-minded devotion to space travel had cost him. Community. That’s what he had lost. Community with his fellow humans. And that other thing, too: Love.

Space travel had seemed such a grand ambition, and it surely was. He’d worked so hard to get there. He also fully expected endless praise and attention when he returned to earth. He craved celebrity. At least he thought he did.

But actually being up there, really seeing the beautiful fragility of life on earth and the bleak blackness of space, he realized how his craving for accolades and celebrity no longer had any meaning. What would be the point of being famous? What purpose could it possibly serve?

And then he started thinking about that word, too: serve. He wondered about that, what does it really mean, to serve others. To be of service.

The William who returned to earth was decidedly different from the William who went into outer space.

The William who returned to earth found himself pondering these things: service, community, love.

William knew his experience “up there” had changed him forever. There was no going back to the person he used to be. Nor did he want to.

So, rather than seeking out fame and praise, William did quite the opposite. He sought to better understand: service, community, love. And to not only understand these things but to truly live them.

He chose a humble path for the remainder of his life. A deliberately humble path. The first thing he did when he returned to earth was to join a volunteer organization. In this way, William came to learn the true meaning of the words: to serve the community with love.

Part of our family

The old man lived alone, and had done for many years. As time went by, he had become very used to his own company. He had established his own routines, and somehow convinced himself that he was happy.

One day he heard a loud knock at his door. “Who could this be?” he wondered, “I wasn’t expecting anyone.”

He opened the door cautiously. 

Stood before him was a young woman, and in her arms she was cradling a small puppy.

“Yes,” he said, with a slight tone of irritation in his voice, “what do you want?”

“I found this little dog in the street,” she said, “I have been asking all your neighbours if it belongs to them. But none of them have lost a dog. So I was wondering…”

“You were wondering what exactly?”

“I was wondering if this cute little creature belongs to you… or maybe you could give it a home.”

“Ha!” exclaimed the old man, “give it a home? Really, what do you take me for?”

“I didn’t mean any offence,” said the woman, “it’s just your neighbours said…”

“My neighbours said what exactly?”

“They said you lived alone, and that none of them know who this pup belongs to, so they thought you might take it in.”

The old man glared at the young woman. 

And then the old man looked at the puppy. And those cute puppy eyes were looking right back at him.

The puppy started to wriggle in the woman’s arms, as puppies are wont to do.

Suddenly the puppy broke free, and, at first it was running around the woman’s legs, and then it dashed into the old man’s house!

“This will never do,” said the old man, “this just won’t do!”

The young woman giggled slightly.

The old man glared at her, then said, “you’ll have to help me find that damned dog, I want it out of my house, and I want nothing to do with it!”

And so both the young woman and the old man conducted a thorough search of the house. This was not an easy task, as the house was large and rather ramshackle and filled with all kinds of ancient junk. And, as they were searching one room, they could hear the puppy scampering about in a different room. But when they both went in that other room, the puppy was nowhere to be found. This process was repeated, and went on for at least an hour.

After a while the old man became tired.

“Would you like me to make you a drink?” asked the young woman, “a cup of tea perhaps?”

“That would be very nice.”

“Might I also make one for myself?”

“Of course.”

The old man sat in the kitchen, whilst the young woman made some tea for them both.

Soon they were sitting opposite one another at the kitchen table.

“Well,” said the old man, “this is all rather tiring.”

“I’m sorry to have inconvenienced you,” said the young woman.

“Ah, that’s alright,” said the old man, “livened up my day a bit, I suppose.”

He took a sip of tea. “Where do you live, anyway?” he asked.

“Just across the street,” she said.

“Hmmm,” said the old man. “Well, I never noticed you. But then I don’t get out much nowadays.”

“Is that by choice or necessity?” asked the young woman.

“That seems a clever question,” said the old man. “If I’m honest, it’s more by choice. I seem to have allowed myself to become a bit… isolated.”

At this exact moment, the puppy crept into the kitchen, and, with a big puppy-ish yawn, promptly fell asleep beneath the kitchen table.

The old man looked, and… his heart melted a little.

“Listen,” said the young woman, “you could give this pup a home, and we could help you, if it ever becomes a bit tiresome for you”.

“Who is ‘we’?” asked the old man.

“Well,” said the young woman, “I’ve already said that I live just across the street. What I forgot to mention is that I am part of a large family. Any of us could help you looking after that lovely little puppy. It would be a pleasure. We could help you with that… or with anything at all.”

And so it came to pass: At a time that the old man had convinced himself that he was too old to change, in fact everything about his life changed. Not only did he have a new puppy to keep him company, he had a new family across the street who helped him every day. In fact, he came to truly realise the meaning of the phrase: “you are part of our family, now.”

In search of peace

Walking through the neighbourhood, I saw some fireworks spiralling across the sky.

“Happy times”, I thought, “at least for some.”

The smell of bonfires lingered vaguely in the air. I just kept walking.

“It’s the animals I feel sorry for,” I thought, “beloved pets being terrified by sudden noise.”

That was what really seemed to upset my dog, Buddy: the loud war-like sounds reverberating; the windows of our house would shake with them.

They would upset me, too: I didn’t survive Iraq just to return home and hear all these militaristic noises. To others they may seem like “just pretty fireworks”, but to me they were a reminder of a more troubled time in my life.

Once I was back home, all I wanted to do was hug Buddy. I guess we were comforting each other. 
My wife, Carol, seemed less interested in me since I became a “veteran”; she said I’d become “a cold person” and that she had “difficulty relating” to me anymore. 

Carol would spend hours happily relating to virtual people on Facebook, whilst I would spend hours with Buddy. Happy hours, really. A dog can be such an innocent creature, and would never just dismiss me as “a cold person”.

When the fireworks started, Buddy & I would hold on to each other tightly, whilst Carol would be peering out the window admiring the view. 

“Maybe we should go out to a display,” she said, “see some proper fireworks up close.”

I hugged Buddy a little closer.

“You really don’t understand, do you?” I said to Carol.

She shrugged her shoulders, in a why-should-I-care kind of manner.

In that precise moment, I knew our marriage was over. In that precise moment, I knew that it wasn’t me that had become “a cold person”.

I left her the following day. Actually, (with Carol’s blessing), both Buddy & I left the following day.

We moved to a remote countryside location, far away from the noisy city. And far away from any noisy fireworks.

219 Franklin Street Hightstown, NJ 08520
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