My Future

My future. This is something that has been a question mark, exclamation point, period, and back to question mark several times within the last year and a half. I’ve given up so much to follow where I felt God was leading me, but man, it hasn’t been easy. At all. Sure, I’ve met some incredible people, made some awesome memories, sought after God, but the question still remains. “Where am I going to end up after I graduate in May?” Entering into my senior year of college has made this question more real and pressing than it has ever been. Throughout the last few years, my ideas about my future have changed several times. Those of you who know me relatively well know what I’m talking about. To go into the details of all that will take way too much time, and frankly, I don’t feel like going through it all. All that matters is that I’ve ended up where I am.

Over this summer, my plans have changed yet again. Although the change is relatively minor, it is a change nonetheless. As a side note, I need to be careful to not “boast about the future” as James warns about in James 4:13-17. After reading through James, I realized that I do this way too much. I would think that I would have learned that by now with how unpredictable my life has been thus far, but I obviously have not. It’s all a process, right? Anyway, back to the point of this whole schpeal.  Previously, my plans had been to, upon graduation, possibly go to Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and participate in their Discipleship Training School (DTS) and after that 6-month program apply to be on staff with YWAM to lead trips and whatnot.

Well, after much thought and introspection, I came to the conclusion that, although I love missions trips, and I definitely want to be involved in many more in the future—a few a year if possible—I don’t think I want to be a full-time missionary. This was a tough decision for me to make because of the whole argument of “What has God called you to?” When Donald Miller spoke at the Oaks last semester, he said something that made a lot of sense to me and seemed very in line with the character of God and Scripture. He said that he didn’t think God necessarily cares what you do, as long as you’re doing it with Him. I completely believe when our desires begin to match up with His desires, we cannot be anything but in His will. After all, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says, “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV).

In light of this, I began to search my heart for what desires God has put in my heart. I thought of the things that made me feel strengthened. Things that if the opportunity arose, that I would be excited to do and know that I would be able to do it. After much thought, I realized that I love to talk to people. More so than talk, I like to listen to people. Specifically boys, anywhere from kids to young adults. Simply put, I just want to be able to influence, guide, and be a helping hand to anyone who needs one. That’s it. So this leads me to what I want to do with my future. Lord willing, I would love to go to the University of North Texas to earn a Master’s in Counseling. I guess actually saying, Lord willing seems weird to me. Point is, I know He knows exactly what’s best for me, and if this is something through which I can glorify Him, He’ll provide a way for this to take place. I also know that if it may not work out, and if it doesn’t, there will be something else. So these are my plans for now.

After reading David Platt’s Radical I’ve begun to really consider making his church, The Church at Brook Hills, in Birmingham, AL my home church. Hearing his heart, the heart of his church, their focus, and reading through their website, I think I would absolutely love it there.  Their emphasis on community, missions, living simply, prayer, and just loving people, is exactly in line with what I want my life to be about. I’ve been browsing through ways to serve at their church, and one opportunity that really struck a chord with me is their need for special needs buddies. They just need people to be one-on-one with a special needs child for a service to allow the child’s parents to attend the worship service. I have always had a heart for special needs kids, and I think I would love that.

But anyway, like I said, these are just my plans as of right now. If the Lord doesn’t let me know specifically in one way or another to change these plans in any way, then this is what I’m going with.

The Girl

She is born into a disgusting world,
With people who have hard, harsh hearts.
They’ve called her names all her life,
As if it’s all a cruel game.
Shame is the name of her game.

Fat, ugly, good-for-nothing,
Loner, weirdo, poor;
This is her identity,
And she believes it.

Her teen years come,
And the girls are brutal,
The boys often worse

A stoic at school,
She constructs a brick wall around her heart,
Around her mind,
Around her life.

It is a thick wall,
For it needs to withstand blow,
After blow,
After blow,
After blow.

That is, until she returns home.

The bricks crumble,
And she hides in her bedroom,
In the corner,
Cowering,
A waterfall of tears
Streaming down her face.

Her pillow is saturated with tears;
Years of weeping have stained it.
This pillow is the only witness to her pain.

Her arms are now the victims,
And her razor blades are the abusers.

She slices her arms
Day after day
To numb the emotional pain;
The physical is much easier to deal with,
She is in control,
Not the others.

She enters the restroom after meals,
Turns on the faucet to make some noise,
And watches the contents of her stomach
Empty into the toilet.
She is determined to be thin;
Maybe they’ll like her then.

Still, they are cruel as ever.

She has to do something
To make them all like her,
To make them think she is worth something,
To make them stop,
To make the pain go away,
Or at least suppress it.

Maybe she’ll be accepted
When she is uninhibited.

Bottle after bottle after bottle,
She makes herself available
To any man that will take her,
And make her feel loved

Instead of feeling loved,
She feels lost,
Damaged,
Tainted,
Broken.
When will it end?
Will it ever end?

Yes.
It ends today.

It is a new day,
Very different than the rest,
But she doesn’t notice.
At first.

Walking to school as usual,
She sees him from afar,
But her wall’s not built yet.

He stops in his tracks;
He looks her way,
And begins to walk toward her.

She stops,
Looks,
Trembles,
Looks again,
And feels at ease
For the first time
Ever.

She stops building her wall,
And instead,
Deconstructs her protection.

With no wall around her heart,
Around her mind,
Around her life,
She’s vulnerable,
But she feels safe.

His eyes are kind,
His gait is intentional,
But not threatening.

A smile stretches across his face
As he stands inches away from hers.

He leans over,
And gently whispers,
“You’re beautiful.”

Immediately,
She gasps for air,
Her cheeks redden,
And her legs nearly give out
At the sound of the foreign words.

Her eyes begin to water,
Her spirit begins to fill,
The pieces of her heart find one another.

She believes him.

High School Memories By Song

Today’s been a nostalgic kind of day. I drove by my high school and listened to some music I used to listen to all the time while I was a student at good ol’ Waynesville High School. I’m an alumnus. I’ve never said those words before. Weird. Several songs came on that brought me to a specific memory. Songs tend to do that pretty often.

When I listen to Beck’s “E-Pro” I can’t help but smile at the sound of the introduction. I think back to cruising the streets of Waynesville in my red,  1988 Toyota Celica convertible with Ms. Brandi Gervais, running extraordinaire, as we bobbed our heads in that “Night at the Roxbury” kind of way. We would laugh as we thought of the cars behind us looking at our heads bouncing to the side. Part of the laugh was also because we knew we looked ridiculous, but we didn’t care. We were just having fun.

When Weezer’s “Beverly Hills” plays, my mind jumps to the times when I would drive either to cross country practice or just around Waynesville by myself with my top down and my brown aviators on (feeling pretty cool, I might add). Gosh, why was I so concerned with how I looked in high school? Sheesh. That was a good convertible song. My hand was an airplane and I was the pilot. So freeing.

Queen’s “We Are The Champions” never fails to bring me back to the night we came back from our conference track meet my senior year. We won the meet for the third year in a row—the three-peat—so my friends and I got in my car (some actually got on my car), drove around the parking lot, and blared that song—well, we blared the chorus over and over; that’s all we knew— and sang at the top of our lungs as if it was written about us. We were the champions that night.

And then there’s Brandon Heath’s “Let’s Make It Last.” The only thing that comes to mind when I hear that (awesome) song is Lizzy. I think back to when we were in our giddy infatuation phase of our relationship. She had me listen to that song one day and I loved it. I played it non-stop, partly because I loved the song, and also so I could impress her with how quickly I memorized the lyrics. Isn’t that ridiculous? The next time she rode in my car, that song played (it was on a mix cd she made me for Christmas), and I knew every word. She actually was impressed. Success. While I’m on memories of Lizzy, might as well bring up “A Whole New World” also. That song brings me to that night we watched the play “Miracle on 34th Street.” When we got out of the play, ice covered the parking lot, so after talking until we were alone in the parking lot, we started gliding as if we were professional ice skaters. While ice skating—and falling on our butts several times— we sang “A Whole New World.” Man, I could listen to that girl sing all day. What can I say; I’m a sucker for singers. Just for a few moments I was Aladdin and she was Jasmine and nothing else in the world mattered. That was a good night.

“Stationary Stationary” by Anberlin was my driving fast song. Every time I hear that song, I remember speeding down the outer access road to the high school going way too fast. I was usually either running late for track practice (the track was about a 5-minute drive from the school) or running late for morning cross country practice. In the mornings specifically, I would drive dangerously fast down that outer road. Let’s just put it this way, if a deer—heck any animal for that matter—walked in front of me, it probably would not have been recognizable after I got through with it…I also felt pretty cool going that fast. Again with the cool thing. Blah!

Finally, there’s Chris Tomlin’s “Arrive” cd. That takes me back to driving to youth group, the one semester my senior year I actually went to youth group. I guess I figured God wouldn’t be happy if I was listening to non-Christian music right before I went to learn about Him. Dang, I was sort of an idiot back then. I didn’t dare listen to Chris Tomlin with my non-Christian friends in the car. Didn’t want them to think I was pious or anything. I can’t believe I was actually like that.

Music has a way of allowing us to remember good times and forgetting the bad. I’m ok with that.

Billy and His Moon

Billy lives alone
In an alley
Maybe on a street corner
Wherever he lands
At the end of the day

His father, brutally murdered
And his mother, a runaway
Never to be found again

Friends. What friends?
Nobody cares for this tramp

A wanderer by day
And a street rat by night
The only constant presence in Billy’s life
Is that moon in the sky

His sole companion.

And even that leaves him alone sometimes
But he knows it’ll be back soon
Unlike the others

Early in the morning
His friend’s harsh twin sister—
Fraternal twin—
Wakes him from his stupor
Nearly burning his face

Billy immediately notices the absence
Of the white, billowy (sometimes wispy) curtains
That often cloud the view
Of his nighttime friend

He fills with excitement
Because he knows
When the night comes
He can once again reunite
With his old albino pal.

But until then, he wanders

The Irony of Freedom of Religion

We hear it all the time (at least in the “Christian World”) of how underground churches thrive in several Asian countries where Christ—the act of following Him or even mentioning His name—is strictly forbidden. We hear countless stories (and I mean that quite literally) of people seeking after God hours upon hours upon hours, reading His word, worshiping Him, calling out to Him in prayer, hungering and thirsting for every drop of Jesus they can squeeze into their souls in a 24-hour period. Hour after hour, day after day. They are desperate for Him. Where’s our hunger? Where’s my hunger? Why do we…why do I not thirst for God and His word? Yeah, I read it a several times a week (on a good week) and I pray about as much, maybe a little more than that. But to honestly thirst for Him is something different. I want to thirst for Him as the psalmist writes in Psalm 42: As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2, NIV). I want Him to be as essential as food and water.

Is oppression the only way to really understand the blessing we have right in front of us, at our fingertips, completely accessible all day every day? I mean, we can study whenever and wherever we  want (for the most part), yet we—at least I— struggle to spend even an hour a day reading, learning, growing, and worshiping the One who saved us from eternal damnation in hell. The One who took my place, your place, on the cross. The One on whom God saw all of our sins, past and future, hanging on that old rugged cross. He took your place. He took my place. That fact alone should be enough to worship Him.

I look again to the Asian countries and other countries where Christianity is forbidden and begin to question, “Why is the forbidden so attractive?” It seems as if we will only really enjoy doing something if it is forbidden. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard phrases like “Smoking was fun and entertaining until I turned 18,” or “Drinking was awesome before I turned 21. Now I have to find something else illegal to do,” or even “Sex was more exciting before we got married.” We have a sinful nature. We naturally want to do what’s forbidden. We want what we can’t have. Freedom of Religion. Hmm. They don’t have it, yet the passion and fire they have for the Lord is absolutely incredible. Admirable, really. We have this freedom, yet we’ve become so jaded to Jesus. We, as a body, are lacking this passion. Ironic? I’d say so. I feel that we take the freedom of religion for granted because there’s nothing at stake. I mean, honestly, what are we really sacrificing in going to church every week, reading our Bibles at the local coffee shop, having Bible studies at the park, etc.? Cool point? A little bit of sleep? A show on TV? When we aren’t sacrificing much, we don’t appreciate much. I firmly believe that sacrifice, appreciation, and growth are all positively correlated. You can’t have two without the third. We’ve lost our appreciation for this freedom and sacrifice is quickly becoming an archaic practice in Christian circles. With a low appreciation of this freedom and an almost non-existent amount of sacrifice, how much can we really grow?

I know these thoughts were a tad scattered today, but I just had these thoughts and wanted to get them down and out.

Peter the Peach and Oscar the Orange

Peter and Oscar were the best of friends.
They played all day ‘til the day’s end.

They danced in sun, and they splashed in the rain.
They had a grand ole time every day.

They wrestled in mud, and they swung in the trees.
Peter and Oscar were thick as thieves.

One gloomy doomy day, a new kid came to town.
He was lumpy, grumpy, mean, and brown.

Parker the Potato was his name.
He bullied all kids just the same.

He had no fear, he was big and strong.
Everything he did was awful and wrong.

He bruised the Apples, Bananas, Kiwis, and Pears.
He made them all cry, but he didn’t care.

Peter and Oscar had to do something.
They couldn’t just sit and watch and do nothing.

They thought and thought and thought some more.
What could they do to settle the score?

Bake him? Mash him? No, that wasn’t it.
None of this mischief seemed to fit.

Fry him? Hash him? No, that wouldn’t do.
What could they plan? They hadn’t a clue.

Then a light lit up in Peter’s head.
“We could fly him out!” Peter said.

“On a bird? On a plane?” Oscar asked.
“A Potato cannon,” Peter replied at last.

Oscar agreed, so they gathered the gang.
They’d make sure Parker went out with a bang!

They collected the materials to make the device.
They were filled with excitement. This was going to be nice.

But how would they get him into the trap?
He wouldn’t just walk in; he was too smart for that.

They could use food to lure him in.
But what did he eat? Let the thinking begin!

They thought up all sorts of different treats.
But Potatoes liked none of them. Not even the sweets!

Then Adam the Apple had a the most marvelous thought.
“They eat it all the time, especially when they’re hot!

“Bacon bits, chives, and, of course, sour cream.”
“Don’t forget the cheese!” Polly the Pear screamed.

They made a long trail that led into the cannon.
And soon enough inside the cannon is where he was standin’.

Kylie the Kiwi lit the fuse with care.
Then BOOM! Parker went flying through the air.

The Apples and Bananas all hollered and cheered.
The Kiwis and Pears had nothing to fear.

Parker the Potato was gone for good.
Now everyone ran to where the heroes stood.

They lifted Peter and Oscar high.
They saw Parker in the distance and waved goodbye.

They set the two down then moved on with their days.
And Peter and Oscar ran off to play.

Treasures in Heaven

“I give because I know my reward is in heaven.”

“Sell all your earthly possessions because your rewards in Heaven will be so much greater.”

I give because I know my reward is in heaven. This is a phrase (among a plethora of others) I hear all the time, and have even used myself, in and out of Christian circles. It hasn’t been until the last year or so that I started to question the implications of this statement. Something just didn’t sit well with me whenever I heard it. I would wonder, “Should that be the reason we give? To receive our treasures in heaven? Or, should selflessness, humility, and love be the catalysts of our giving? Love for God and love for people.” After all, those are the two greatest commandments. Right?

36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37Jesus replied:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt 22: 36-40, NIV).

Right. If we sell all we have to the poor and “give of ourselves” in the form of money, gifts, time, etc., because we know we’ll have more treasures in heaven, isn’t the focus still on ourselves? I mean, when we truly dig down to the basic idea of this overused Christianese phrase—no polite tones and gestures, no Churchy jargon, no BS—we are essentially saying, “I give because I get.”

We as Christ followers, as people, need to come to a place in our lives where we can take the focus completely off of ourselves and truly learn to love others for the sake of loving them. No other reason. No ulterior motives. We should love because we love. It should be that simple. It should come as the overflow of the love we have for God. We should be moved with compassion and want them to have the things we offer, even if it means giving up that brown coat that goes so well with those brown shoes.

I feel like we mask our selfishness by saying it’s for our “eternal wealth” as if that changes the fact that we’re being selfish. As if it’s just dandy to make that our motivation. Maybe I’m wrong. Is it ok? Is it ok for our “treasures in heaven” to be our motivation for giving and loving people? I don’t see why it should be. To me, giving with this motivation takes away a lot, if not all, of the authenticity of the sacrifice. It’s as if we’re saying, “Here, you can have my stuff. I really don’t want to give it to you, but I know I’ll be rewarded for this in heaven. I know God is watching me and is proud. But man, I really don’t want to give this stuff away.” Yuck.

Why do we always need a reward for sacrifice? What if there was no reward? Would we still sacrifice? Now, this doesn’t apply solely to giving to the poor; it also applies to tithing. We should tithe out of our generous hearts. Scripture states in 2 Corinthians 9:6: “Remember this, whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Here again, Paul (whose writings, we must remember, are theopneustos, or God-breathed, as is all of Scripture) promises that we will “reap generously”, but that should not be our motivation. Tithe to honor the Lord as we’re commanded in Proverbs 3: 9: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.”

I mean, look at Jesus. He died on the cross for sins he didn’t commit simply because he loved God and loved us. He didn’t receive anything other than the joy of knowing that he was obedient to the Father and that he saved those who choose to live for Him from eternity in hell. That’s it. There was absolutely no selfish ambition or ulterior motives.

Now please, do not here what I am not saying. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look forward to our treasures in heaven or that we should disregard the idea of treasures in heaven all together. It’s going to be awesome when we finally do experience that.  But what I am saying is that our treasures should not be our motivation for giving, befriending, loving, and caring. Love and only love, love for God and love for others, should be our sole motivation.

The Tree

His arms reach out in all directions,
Kids climbing,  jumping, playing,
Rope swings and tire swings
Boy oh boy,
This tree has it all.

He  stands high and mighty
Above all the rest—a skyscraper,
With leaves and animals galore;
This oak is alive and well.

This baby is known by many names:
A home, a refuge,
A playground by some,
A friend, or just art.

Multitalented .

He dances in the wind,
Plays in the rain,
Soaks up the rays
Day after day
Just having a good time living the good life
In freedom

Seasons come and seasons go,
And as the years pass by
This hoss just takes it in stride.

But this year is different than the rest.

The biting winter comes,
And gosh dangit it’s cold

The ice entraps his arms,
And the snow adds insult to injury.
What was once a handsome oak,
Is now a weeping willow,
Hunched over,
Sulking,
Dying.

He begins to crack under the pressure
One limb,
Two limbs,
Three limbs,
Four.
His arms violently snap
And fall lifelessly to the ground below.

This broken, forlorn life
Tries to remain optimistic
Things will be better in the spring
Right?

The ice begins to melt
And his wounds are exposed.
The sun shines,
But still
The tree is naked, broken, bruised, used.

He tries to dance in the wind
Play in the rain,
Soak up the rays,
But he can’t;
It hurts too much
He’s reminded of the better days,
When he was stronger.

The spring, summer, fall, and winter come
But still
No leaves,
No animals,
No rope swings or tire swings,
No kids.
They’ve moved on
To bigger and better things

People say he’ll live again,
But when?

Two years pass,
And they’re all still wrong.

They contemplate cutting him down,
Put him out of his misery,
But no.

They have faith he will live.
He has faith he will live
They believe in him,
Which allows him believe in himself.

His arms are still cracked,
Still void of any life,
But he’s optimistic again,
And that’s good enough for now.

Patience keeps one sane.

He listens and waits,
And for the first time,
He watches life happen
All around him,
When alas!
A leaf.

A leaf pokes his little green head
Out of one of his limbs.
Flying solo.

But wait, what’s this?
There’s another,
And another,
And another!

He’s coming back to life,
He can feel it in his roots,
And everyone around him takes notice.

Within months he’s back and running,
Strong as ever,
Happy as can be,
Living free again.

His arms reach out in all directions,
Kids climbing,  jumping, playing,
Rope swings and tire swings
Boy oh boy,
This tree has it all.



Snarky and the Fandanglers

Snarky was born a little over nine years ago in Tropic, Island. Yes, the city is named Tropic and the island is, well, named Island. Island is a relatively small island (relative to what, nobody really knows) just south of Fiji with anywhere from 400 to 40,000 people. Oddly enough, no one has ever counted. Snarky is the son of Nick Knack and Patty Whack, middle school sweethearts who never married because they liked the ring their names had when said together. Nobody has ever really been sure if Mr. Knack and Ms. Whack named their son Snarky because they were fond of poetry and named him after Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, or if they were wishful comics and named him Snarky in hopes that he would turn out to be a living piece of irony, that his personality would be the complete opposite of the definition of “snarky”. Regardless, Snarky is his name.

Snarky hates the fact that he has to go to school. This is his fifth year going to school, and five days a week still seems absurd to him. He’s been in the fourth grade for roughly a month and he’s more than ready for the summer again; he’s been ready for three weeks now. Unfortunately for him, it’s a Monday and he has to, once again, go to school. He pries himself out of bed and plants his feet among empty juice boxes, candy wrappers, and mountains of clothes that surround his twin-size bed. He looks over at his Curious George alarm clock on the nightstand next to his bed and it reads 8:02. Thirty minutes until class starts. He tiptoes his way to the bathroom, nearly twisting an ankle or two along the way, and stands in front of the floor-length mirror. As he looks at his wiry body that he inherited from his father, fair-skinned but tanned from the summer, he lets out a small giggle. He giggles because he is standing there only in his superman briefs. For some reason, that makes him giggle. He then makes his way over to the sink and examines his face in the mirror that hangs above the sink. He has a clever face like his father and the dark features of his mother. He has the modest nose and almond-shaped eyes of his father, and his mouth rests sweetly below his nose in perfect proportion to his face. But goodness, those ears! Neither his mother nor his father knows where he inherited those ears from. They were quite distracting and borderline offensive. They stuck out of his bowl cut, which nobody can ever tell he has since his head often leaves the house the same way it leaves the bed, if not worse. After examining his face, he checks his breath, decides that it doesn’t smell too bad, and walks out of the bathroom and back into his bedroom to throw on the least smelly clothes he can find. He then sifts through all the flim flams and waxidoosies on the floor to find his back pack. He slings it over his left shoulder and makes his way downstairs to the kitchen.

His father Nick is already at work at the garbanola-packaging factory—the people of Island love their tasty garbanolas—and his mother is in the kitchen preparing Snarky’s lunch. The time ticks away relentlessly as Snarky waits, arms crossed and foot tapping, for his mother to pack his ham sandwich on white with extra alfalfa sprouts, Little Debbie Snack, package of garbanolas, and Capri Sun with the utmost precision in the usual brown paper lunch sack. She removes her favorite black marker from its drawer and begins to write her son’s name on the bag. Before she can finish writing the ‘y’ in her trademark, extra-large block letters, Snarky snatches the paper sack from the counter and disappears into the early morning fog. If he’s late again, it will be his fourth time, and Ms. Harshbottom won’t let him play outside with the other kids during recess. Instead he’ll have to stay inside and wash her nasty fandanglers to occupy the 20 minutes. She dons a size 12 shoe and never wears socks or stockings. Needless to say, he is desperate.

Snarky scurries hurriedly down the jagged sidewalk, bordered on the left side by a chain-link fence and the right side by a road, in order to make it to school on time. As he walks, the fog begins to lift and the familiar scenery reveals itself. The first thing Snarky notices are his favorite yamadore trees with their gnarly branches headed in every which direction, located on the other side of the road in a neat row. He loves those trees, and he would climb them if he was not so pressed for time. Those trees are the primary reason he was late the other three times. Between the cracks in the sidewalk, little purple and white zilcher flowers greet Snarky as he walks over them. He passes by the sun-bathing raccoons in an open field on the left of him and continues to the large patch of shmoozlebushes up ahead. With six and half minutes remaining to get to class, he still has quite a hill to conquer. His thighs and calves are screaming obscenities at him when his destination comes into view. As the sign for Scallywag Elementary pokes up from over the hill, a hairy little quashitok—the cool kids call them quashies—reaches one of its 3 scraggy arms out from a nearby shmoozlebush and bops Snarky on the head. Without hesitation, as if he was expecting it, Snarky pulls out a quiver from his back pack and pokes the hairy little fellow in his sleep button located on his forest of a chest. The quashitok quickly dozes off and Snarky races on to his school. He bursts through the school doors, zips past the kindergarten artwork, passes through the first grade crafts, hurdles the second grade puzzle that nearly covers the floor, and finally past the third grade finger painting when he reaches Ms. Harshbottom’s classroom. With gummy worm legs, fiery lungs, and a sweat-drenched shirt he stumbles into the classroom fourteen seconds before 8:30. Luckily for Ms. Harshbottom, she sets her clock two minutes fast. At the sight of little Snarky, her fandanglers begin to sweat with excitement.

The kids in his class snicker and point; they know of his coming punishment. They know that Snarky will have to wash Ms. Harshbottom’s nasty fandanglers while they get to go out and play. Snarky, after seeing the time, hunches over and walks dejectedly over to his desk and sinks into his seat. From the time he arrives until the lunch bell rings (recess is directly after lunch), Snarky doesn’t listen to a word Ms. Harshbottom says, which isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary. She could be talking about flying maltavors taking over the world, but all he can think about are those fandanglers. Those big, nasty fandanglers. He sits caddy-wompas to a window, so to take his mind off of the inevitable, he stares out and thinks of things that make him happy. He thinks of the simpleness of his childhood. About rope swings and rivers, mud puddles and daffodils, open fields and train tracks, marshknockers and yamadores. To him, a boy is as free as his mind will let him be, and his is about as free as the birds and the bees. Just as soon as Snarky begins to daydream about swinging freely with the friendly little marshknockers from one yamadore tree to the next, the lunch bell rings. At the sound of the bell, his bowels almost lose control, but he contracts in just the right places to not cause a mess. After the initial shock, Snarky lifts himself out of his chair, grabs his brown paper lunch sack with “SNARKV” written on it, and stands in line to go to lunch. He walks zombie-like the entire way to the large, white-walled cafeteria and just sits. Sits and waits. He doesn’t have an appetite and is oblivious to everything around him. He doesn’t even notice Billy and Bobby Ritzenheim snagging his Little Debbie Snack and garbanolas. All he can manage to do is sit and wait. In what seems like an instant, his eyes shift and his heart becomes audible as he begins to see some of the kids stand to line up and leave. He shakes in his skin and his stomach churns like goulash. He waits until every person is up and in line before he makes his way to the end of the line. It’s time.

Snarky creeps into the classroom, reluctantly of course, and Ms. Harshbottom is waiting and ready. Immediately, as he crosses the threshold of the door, the pungent smell of rotted cheese and narshbergers invades his nostrils. It’s as if a dingleshuck is waiting at the door and just punches him right in the schnoz. It’s bad.  Nauseated and probably turning some shade of green, Snarky walks toward the source of his discomfort, with an obviously pained facial expression, trying not to throw up and add to the smell, although that might actually improve the smell of the room. He kneels down to grab the sponge out of the bucket when he sees them—those nasty fandanglers. Boy, are they nasty! They look as if slootherbingers are sticking out of a box of bordenhoppers! On top of the slootherbingers are large puss-filled mongersacks. There are even mongersacks on the mongersacks! The scent waves seeping off of the fandanglers are almost visible, the same way one would view them in an episode of Loony Tunes. In the identical fashion that a timid child has to surprise himself by jumping into a cold aquidaner, Snarky surprises himself and dives right in to the task of washing those nasty fandanglers. He begins to wash, and almost instantaneously, the sweet aroma of milk and humberlops mixes with the stench of rotted cheese and narshbergers to make an extremely familiar smell. He can’t quite pinpoint it, but he knows that he knows he knows it. Well, he knows that his nose knows it anyway. It’s actually quite a pleasant smell. Is it honderberries? No. Is it bildagesh? No. Is it placken seeds? No. What could it be? He doesn’t dwell on it too long. After questioning it for about a minute and a half, he moves on to thinking about the marshknockers and yamadores again. He sure loves those marshknockers and yamadores. He finishes up with the fandanglers and Ms. Harshbottom sticks them back into her smelly shoes. Useless.

The other children begin to file into the classroom and start to comment on the smell. They all agree that is smells like… garbanolas. After taking another whiff, Snarky realizes they’re right! Garbanolas! The aroma of milk and humberlops mixed with the stench of rotted cheese and narshbergers makes the sweet and pleasing smell of garbanolas! He can’t wait to get home and tell his parents. He sits anxiously and giddy as a schoolboy—er, he is a school boy. It’s just an expression—ready to bust through the school doors to get home and tell his parents Nick Knack and Patty Whack. Boy will they be surprised! In no time at all, the final bell rings, and before it finishes, Snarky’s out the door. He speeds down the hill and past the shmoozlebushes and quashies, flashes right by the still-sun-bathing raccoons, leaps and bounds over the zilcher flowers, stops to have a quick climb and swing session on the yamadores, then sprints the final stretch of jagged sidewalk to his house. To his surprise, his father is already home, and for the first time, something catches his eye. It’s the name of his father’s company on the right chest pocket of his red collared shirt. Snarky reads it and re-reads it over and over again to make sure his eyes are not deceiving him. Harshbottom Inc.

He wonders how he had never seen that before. Still, he’s excited and anxious to share his new findings with his parents. He jumps and wiggles, shakes and kiggles, as if he’s created a new, trendy dance, in anticipation of the end of his parents’ conversation. His mother finally asks him if he needs to use the restroom, and instead of answering, he blurts out (louder than even he expected) his new and exciting discovery. She pretends to be excited (and he knows it), and his father says that he already knew. After all, he does work in a garbanola-packaging factory. His father tells Snarky to read the ingredients on the label of a package of garbanolas. Snarky agrees and skedaddles on over to the pantry and opens the door. He reaches around the can of yarties to grab a package of garbanolas. He turns it over and reads the ingredients. It begins, “Garbanolas, milk, humberlops, fandangler juice,…” The pit of Snarky’s stomach tightens much like it had when the lunch bell rang. It’s as if he just learned a secret that he wished he had never known. In fact, that’s exactly what happened. His beloved garbanolas have fandangler juice in it. Of all things! And since the name of the packaging company is Harshbottom Incorporated, he imagines that the fandangler juice comes from her nasty fandanglers! Of course, they don’t, in fact, come from Ms. Harshbottom’s fandanglers; that would be disgusting. Rather, the fandangler juice comes from the frozen mongersacks of Ms. Harshbottom’s older generation, so Snarky has no need to worry. Still, Snarky is shocked and appalled in light of this new information. His head begins to spin uncontrollably, so he makes his way past his parents, not knowing whether or not they are saying anything to him, up the stairs and into his bedroom. He kicks up some flim flams and waxidoosies, steps on a few juice boxes and candy wrappers, and finally crash lands in his twin-size bed. His eyes grow heavier and heavier as he thinks about what just happened. His delectable garbanolas. Ruined forever all because of those fandanglers. Those big, nasty fandanglers.