A MISGUIDED STEP by Audrey Christophersen Guest Writer

A Short Story
Scene from Misguided step short story[1598]Audrey.jpg
“It can’t be true!” Eric exclaimed after he had examined the latest audit. The owner of the Home Hardware store was heard to say out loud. “I’m losing money fast!” He determined to ring his manager at once. Six months ago, Eric took Joe on the payroll as manager. He came to the job with impeccable references. These days, Eric was finding shop work onerous. After all, he was pushing eighty and should have a young man directing things for him. Eric still had a sharp mind though, and anyone who thought they could take him for a ride was barking up the wrong tree. Eric wondered if he was slipping for this to be happening to him. “Hello, is that Joe Carter?” he asked. “O good! You are the one I want. I need to see you as soon as you can get away from the shop. Will you come around to my home as soon as you can?” Eric did not want to give Joe any idea that he had discovered discrepancies in the registry. Exactly at five forty-five, there came a knock on Eric’s front door. That will be Joe, Eric thought as he walked firmly to the front porch. Happy-go-lucky, Joe was standing on the stoop with a beaming smile on his face. “Come in!” Eric invited, leading Joe into his warm lounge where a cozy fire crackled behind the glass of the combustion heater. The large central heater had not sold and Eric thought it would make a good retirement present to themselves before he took Joe on as his chief administrator. “I have been looking at this month’s sales and there are a few things I want you to explain to me. There are certain items missing from the shop and there is no entry in the day book.” Eric spoke trying to keep calm. “Errr, Errr,” stammered Joe, as he shuffled his feet and his face dropped. He lost eye contact with Eric and looked uncomfortable. “Well?” Eric prompted. “I thought I could trust you but it seems I have made an error of judgment.” “Well, it’s like this”, Joe took a deep breath. “Cliff the plumber was in a tight spot, was owed money from one of his customers who in turn was in debt to someone else. You know how it goes.” Joe paused for a breath. “No, I don’t know how it goes, as you say.” Eric straightened in his comfortable chair looking squarely at Joe who was starting to sweat. “I know Cliff will pay up at the end of the month,” Joe coaxed a hopeful smile onto his face. “How long has this been going on?” Eric asked. “I hope there are no other customers you have been giving tick too.” “Two months ago when the recession was starting to bite, I knew Cliff would go to the opposition so I started keeping a special book for him and Pete.” “Who’s Pete?” Eric exploded, his face going red. Joe struggled to maintain a calm and business-like manner. “Pete’s a painter in hock to the paint company and I was just trying to help him out.” “With my money!” Eric shouted. Eric’s wife heard the yelling and aware that there was a problem entered the room. It’s time for a cup of tea she thought. “How about a cup of tea boys?” “It’s alright Mary… But that’s not a bad idea.” Eric puffed out his cheeks. Trying to control his emotions. Mary could be heard filling the electric jug and rattling some cups and saucers. Both men were grateful for the diversion. “They ARE the only ones.” “They had better be,” Eric threatened. “Am I for the chop then?” Joe asked screwing up his courage. “I’ll think it over and let you know. You had better start looking elsewhere for work. I can’t have people working for me that I can’t trust. I will see you in the morning.” “Thanks, Mary, for the tea, you’re a lifesaver I don’t think you have actually met my manager Joe”. “Nice to meet you, Joe,” Mary beamed. That night Joe did some serious thinking. He thought about all the other people who would love to have his job and began to visualize just what it would be like to be back on the dole. He realized he was not as fit as he was in his teens and did not relish the idea of offering his services as a gardener or heavy storeman jobs available for a man of his age. He was too ashamed to front up to at his father’s door for a handout so what was he to do? His stomach churned as he reached for a stiff drink but he pulled his hand back as his wife entered the room. She must not know the pickle he had got himself in. In his heart of hearts he knew he needed a clear head and drowning his sorrows was not the way to go. Joe thought about Cliff and wondered if he was as broke as he made out he was. Joe wondered if Cliff could manage at least to pay half the money that was owing and decided on the spot to give him a ring. To Joe’s surprise, Cliff had been paid all of the money that was owed to him and could easily pay half the money still outstanding in Joe’s special book. Encouraged, Joe rang Pete on the strength of his success in getting Cliff to pay up. Joe knew that the paint company was hot on Pete’s heels to recoup the money and this might not be an easy task. Then again it was really Pete’s fault that he had run up this debt in the first place. It was not fair that he should expect others to bail him out. Joe would put the bite on Pete. He would let him know that it would be the end of the road for both of them if the debt to Eric could not be paid. Joe expected at least sixty percent of the total amount. Joe rang Pete to explain the predicament. “Could you at least pay two thirds or thereabouts as soon as possible?” Pete was mortified that Joe might lose his job on his account and realized that he could no longer use another man to pay his debts. Pete’s kids all had good jobs so he passed the hat around and came up with the required amount to satisfy Joe at Home Hardware and thus save him from having to look for a job he was unlikely to get at his age. Next morning Joe spruced himself up, much to his wife’s amazement. She cast jealous eyes over her husband. Was he trying to impress a female member at work? Little did she know that this could be the last day he would have as manager at the hardware store? Eric was there already and was waiting in the Manager’s office to give his verdict. Nervously Joe opened the door and took the spare seat usually made available for an employee or a sales rep. Eric spoke first asking Joe what he thought should happen to him for mismanaging his money. “Well Sir,“ he replied in the humblest tones he could manage, “ I managed to get onto Cliff and Pete last night and they can’t pay all the money that’s owing, but,” he quickly added,” they can pay. Cliff can pay half of the amount and Pete managed to raise sixty percent of the total amount.” “I’ll think about it today, Joe. I warn you though, to be prepared to pack up your belongings. This is a serious matter and I view it as straight out theft from your employer. Just remember the CCTV is there to watch out for shoplifters and you will be treated no differently to them.” Joe’s face paled as he saw himself standing before the judge being treated as a common shoplifter. Joe spent a long day acting as if nothing was wrong. It was the longest day he could remember, not because something nice was waiting for him at the end of it but something that could cause him incalculable shame. It was nearly knock off time when Eric arrived back at the shop. Joe did not lock up as was his habit, but went straight into his office. “I have given your position some serious consideration and in a way, I suspect your motives were not all that bad. You did read correctly that Cliff and Pete would not be totally loyal to us taking their custom to the opposition. That weighs in your favour,” Eric began. “Thank you, Sir,” Joe swallowed hard trying to gain composure. Eric  continued, “ Good managers are hard to get and I suspect you might not get an equal position easily at your age so because you seemed not to be acting as a common thief but out of compassion for customers and our overall interest, I am giving you a chance to redeem yourself.” “Thank you, Sir” gulped Joe. “I have learned my lesson and it will be strictly by the book in future.” Eric went on. “You are not let off the hook, Joe. There are still conditions for you remaining manager of my shop. The balance of that money owed is coming out of your wages over a period of time. I still have to pay my taxes and don’t see how it is fair for me to pay for your mistakes. We will say no more and there is no need to call the police in on this matter provided you keep your side of the bargain. Joe thought for a moment about Cliff and Pete. Were they going to have a free ride at his expense but maybe it would be good to remind them they still owed him. He thought about it again and accepted it might be best to wipe the slate clean and count himself lucky he still had a job. He had made a silly mistake and it was not an experience he intended to repeat. He would be much more careful in the future when it came to money matters. Audrey Christophersen   ©   glorious susnset   CREATIVITY VERSUS CREATIVITY by BRUCE LEANE Early in my Christian life, I realized we can access two creative positions. Using our natural creativity and the other being too timid to develop our inner ability. When my eldest son matriculated, I took him and his brother for a weekend trip to Arkaroola to celebrate his success and enjoy some father and son time. The holiday was fun until the sump of the Austin 1500 caught the exposed iron bars of a cattle grid. The motor was torn from its moorings and pushed the carburetor up into the bonnet of the car bringing us to an abrupt halt. The surrounding desert was empty except for stunted scrub. We had to survive by our own wits. I tied the car to a tree with some wire and by reversing it hoped to straighten the car and drive on to Arkaroola, this was only partially successful. Tying the engine to the chassis with more fencing wire was the next step. We entered the Resort with no reverse and no top gear, a bent steering arm caused the two front tires to scrub bare.
tree in outback
RECONSTRUCTION The two boys spent the next two days exploring the Flinders’ Ranges while I cut the car apart then welded it back together to make it roadworthy. Our home city was several hundred miles away. I drove into our backyard and parked the Austin under a tree and never drove it again. An insurance claim was lodged and a payout received. With the insurance money, I bought a very good 3 Series Land Rover which became a very necessary aid in the development of my ministry. It is amazing how God takes the ordinary, everyday circumstances and makes them extraordinary and life-changing.
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A FIRST Steven and Virginia Morphett from America met us in the 1960’s when we lived in the Riverland. They were child evangelists and felt God call them to promote child evangelism in Australia. The first tent campaign for children was held in Berri by the couple but Gwen and I and a team of workers supported them. The campaign was very successful and we learned a great deal from them. Living in Whyalla in the 1970’s, I realized the six primary schools in the city could be evangelized. Remembering our time in Berri with Stephen and Virginia and using the small marquee, the idea was born could we do something similar in Whyalla? I felt overwhelmed by the task. The Lord spoke to me in the middle of the night to make a tent. After a lot of debate with the team of youth workers, a tarpaulin was acquired and a frame built. Dimensions: ridge pole 40 foot, three uprights 14 foot each, all the poles were made of three-inch water pipe. It required a large team to build and operate, repair and modify. We visited the schools impacting more than 3000 children in two or three years. Kids Clubs operated after school and the campaigns ended. A GREAT TEAM Our team of youth workers gave us their full support. Workers from other churches volunteered their help. Weather, wind alerts and vandalism to be contended with. The tent could not be taken down each night. Once up, the tent stayed up for a week while the campaign operated. The meetings would start with a hundred children and build to 250. The tent was also used for a young people’s camp in Wilpena Pound. I had to make a big pack rack for the Land Rover to carry the poles and gear as well as pull the trailer with the tent. An outreach campaign was held in Alice Springs. Pastors Basil and Joy Porter were ministering there at the time. The Land Rover became a pack horse, so to speak, in my ministry. My creative and natural capabilities continued to be extended by the Lord.
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RECOGNIZING CREATIVITY Creativity is often only recognized in the arts, but we are all creators. We have been made in the image of our creator God and each can create. It is a pity we cannot think of ourselves as creators and allow God to use us to our fullest capacity. It was God who showed me how to build the tent. The flashes of creativity from the Lord in the middle of the night when facing a crisis in my life are countless, today at the latter end of my life, the sparks of creativity and inspiration are still operating. God has a job he wants each of us to do, he has equipped us to do that job, all that is needed is for us to to be aware of our creativity and use it. ———- Forwarded message ———-

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