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Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

The Main Character


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She had a friend.

A true story about about a young boy's idea.


      The winter of 1952 was not particularly memorable to me.  
       Christmas, on the other hand, is always a time that I remember.  I think I can remember what Santa brought me every year from my 8th year until my 16th.  Some of those memories aren't too pleasant because gifts in my home were not too plentiful.  And some of the memories are painful.  Like the time I rang bells for the Salvation Army, out in front of the five and dime store.  A lot of my friends from school came by and laughed at me.  They thought it was funny that I stood out in the snow ringing a bell.  
       Kids can be cruel.  I stood there ringing the bell at Christmas because that was a job.  I got paid for ringing that bell and the money I made was all the money I would have to buy presents for my younger brother, my Dad, and my Stepmom.  I got twenty five cents an hour.  Oh sure, it was cold out there.  Yeah, I'd much rather be home reading a book or playing with my brother. But earning two dollars a day would certainly help me pick out some fine gifts for my family.
       The reason for the season was always in the back of my mind.  I knew that the money that people donated to the Salvation Army would go to feed the hungry and helpless children in town.  I knew because my Church of choice was The Salvation Army.   Many of you think that The Salvation Army is just a charitable organization that helps feed the poor.  But they are a Church with a mission:  With Heart to God, and Hand to Man.
       It was in that Church where I first became a Christian.  Although I haven't always followed the teachings of Jesus as I should, I do believe that He came to this earth and sacrificed Himself in order for mankind to live in Peace forever.  
       The Joy of Christmas is always plentiful.  
       And in 1952 I was asked to participate in a play at The Salvation Army church, a play about Christmas.  I wanted the lead part because I have always been the type of guy who wants to be the main character in anything I do.  Call it a "center of attention" deficit disorder.  Call it whatever you want, but that's my character and that is why I wanted to be the main character.  And, too, at age fifteen I had started to think quite a bit about the opposite sex, and there was a young lady playing the lead part that had caught my eye on more than one occasion, and I wanted to be up front and center with her.  Wouldn't the guys at school look at me with a different eye if they saw me playing opposite this beauty?
       I didn't get that part in the play.  The scene was a general store set back in the days when general stores were the center of small towns across the south.  Families sometimes gathered at the general store and had parties, dances, or (as in this case) plays.  My part was that of an old man participating in a checker game with another, younger man.  All we had to do was sit there and play checkers.  
       Of course the HAM in me soon started to take over.  I started to think about a way to make myself stand out.  I was yielding to the temptation to make ME the main character, somehow, even though my speaking part was limited to "It's your move,Clem!"  What kind of a speaking part is that?  I knew that I deserved a better part in the play than just some yokel smoking a pipe!  In my own mind I was at least as good as Errol Flynn or Clark Gable.  Shucks, if I had been in "Gone With The Wind" I wouldn't have said "Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn" I would have insisted that they change that line and of course the director would have told the script writer to talk to me to see just what line I wanted to say instead.  I would have said, "Let's change it to 'Frankly, Scarlett, although I still care for you deeply, I must tell you that you and I have an entirely different view of life.  I'm not as optimistic as you are about the South being rebuilt, with or without slaves.  Too many good men have died.  Too few have died for the cause of the Yankees.' Can we fit that in?"
       Yes, that's what I would have said.  Since I would have been the MAIN character in that movie.  
       But I was just a bit part actor in the church play.  That didn't set too well with me.  I figured there had to be a way to attract more attention to that bit part, maybe people would notice me if I could just come up with something!
       As a prop, I fashioned a genuine corn-cob pipe.  It wasn't hard to make, shucks, I'd made a few of them by the time I was fifteen, even smoked a few.  I knew that I would have to make it look real, just like I was actually smoking that corn-cob pipe, in order to attract any attention to ME, the MAIN character.  So my creative imagination began working.
        My first idea was to make some tiny shreds of toilet tissue and put them in the pipe, then by blowing on the stem., the tissue would rise and look like smoke.  I laboriously cut toilet paper into a hundred or so strips, carefully tamped the paper into the bowl of the pipe and stood in front of a mirror to watch as I blew into the stem.  Nothing happened.  The paper was tamped too tight and as hard as I tried I could not get it to rise, like smoke, from the bowl.  I huffed and I puffed and I dang near blew my brains right out.  Finally the whole ball of tiny toilet tissue shot up and out of the pipe.  It was a good thing this was rehearsal, and not the main act.  I would have been a zero instead of a hero.
       The thought occurred to me that if I just shredded the paper into a billion little pieces they would fly out of the pipe's bowl without much difficulty.  I picked up the ball of tissue and started cutting it up.  I cut each piece into a square no bigger than an eighth of an inch.  I used those scissors until my fingers were sore.  After a half hour of painful snipping I was nowhere near filling that pipe bowl with paper scraps.  It would take me forever to cut enough tissue to do the job I wanted to see.
       Back to square one.  Think.  Being the creative genius that I am (clap, clap, clap...hooray for ME), the idea finally came to me.  TALCUM POWDER.  All I had to do was fill the bowl with talcum powder, gently puff on the stem, and a small amount of talcum powder would be ejected from the bowl.  I tried it.  It worked.  My idea was genius!  I stood in front of the mirror with my corn-cob pipe filled with talcum powder, and very gently puffed into the stem.  A dainty cloud of powder rose from the surface of the bowl's interior and drifted very slowly up.  Terrific!  I puffed again and another breath of tobacco smoke escaped the bowl of the pipe.  Absolutely perfect!  Genius!
       I didn't tell anyone about my plan.  I had it all figured out and rehearsed it.  
       The night of the play, I waited until my only speaking line.
       "Your move , Clem!", I said, and puffed a little smoke into the room.  I heard the amazement in the gasps from the audience.  Then I heard the applause.  I'd done it!  I was the MAIN character, even though I'd only spoken 3 words!  Each time I puffed on the pipe stem and the smoke billowed out, I got a small round of applause.
       At the end of the play when we were all supposed to stand up to take our bow, I purposefully remained seated.  Every other actor on the stage looked at me.  I puffed on the stem and the pipe issued its tobacco smoke one last time. The audience roared.  What music to my ears!
       It was cold outside, and I was scrunched up in the back seat of Dad's old 1940 Chevrolet as he drove out of the parking lot of the church.
       "You've got a whipping coming when we get home, Donald," he said, solemnly.
       "Why?  What for?" I asked, shocked.  I had stolen the show, I had enraptured the crowd.  I had been the MAIN character.
       "What for?  For smoking in church, that's what for!" Dad said.
       Silence.
       After a minute or so, Dad started laughing so loud it shook the car.
       I wasn't the main character after all.  Dad was!  His line stole the night.
       But the REAL main character at Christmas and forever,  is always Jesus.


       THE END OF A TRUE STORY, by Don Yarber


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Don Yarber's website: http://donyarber.wix.com/kip-yardley

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