Sunday, July 24, 2005


Copyright 2005 Janice Price

“What are you typing?” Buddy asks casually, nearly startling Merci into falling off Jan’s typing chair.

Intent on what she is doing, Merci says, “I’m typing a message to God.”

“Well, then, you need to change your salutation from “Dear God” to Dear Mr. God, “ Buddy tells her.

“Why?” Percy leaps onto the desk.

“Can’t I have any privacy around here? This is a personal letter to God.”

Mister God,” Buddy corrects Merci. “Remember, we have to show proper respect to adults and those in authority - just like we call Jan’s mother, Miss Mother. I’ve heard Jan call Mr. God “Father,” so we have to be respectful.”

Cyndi, Crystal and Cotton join the group at the computer. “Who is this Mr. God?” Cyndi wants to know.

“Yes, I’d like to know this myself,” Cameron says, leaping lightly onto the desk. “She sure talks to herself a lot, but sometimes she addresses God. I mean, Mr. God.” Cameron corrects himself quickly, when Buddy glares at him.

“I don’t know,” Cotton says, thoughtfully. “Sometimes Jan wanders around the house talking to him, but I haven’t figured out yet where he hides. I’ve looked for him in the closet, under the bed, in the silverware drawer, just about everywhere, but I’ve never seen him.”

Crystal chimes in. “I thought Jan was bonkers at first but she gets e-mail from other folks who say they talk to God, sorry, Mr. God, too. Maybe if we borrow Jan’s reading glasses, we can see him next time she talks to him.”

“By the way,” Buddy says, bringing the conversation back to where it began, “why are you writing to Mr. God, Merci?”

“Well, I’ve heard Jan say this Mr. God answers prayers. So I figure if he answers prayers, he might answer my request.”

“But you don’t know how to reach him,” Cotton says.

“I thought he might read it if I post it on our journal. Nearly everyone has Internet access nowadays.”

“What do you want him to do for you, Merci?”

“I don’t want him to do anything for me, Cameron,” Merci replies. “I want him to help Jan.”

Cyndi asks, “Help Jan with what?”

“Well,” Merci settles more comfortably on the chair, “you all know Jan found out a week ago that someone has been stealing stories off her MAP site. Nearly half of her Christian writings were stolen by someone and posted to a Christian forum. This person also stole stories from several of Jan’s writing friends.”

“Yes, she’s been walking around talking to herself, I mean talking to Mr. God all week, trying to figure out what to do and how to go about it,” Crystal says. “She was going to close down both her MAP site and our JFF site. It’s been a hard week for her.”

“You’re right, Crystal,” Buddy adds. “She cried the other day. Just like we did when Miss Mother’s Benji and Mr. Jimmy’s Murphy died recently.” He looks around at each member of the group. “We got through those sad times because we have each other. Who does Jan have?”

“She has us!” Merci exclaims. “She always helps us. I thought it was my turn-“ She stops and waves a paw at the other residents of the Funny Farm. “I mean, it’s our turn to help her.”

‘What can we do?” they chorus eagerly, drawing closer together. “If someone stole from Jan, someone could steal from us.”

“Exactly! Jan believes in standing up for what she believes in but she’s getting too old to stand up for long, so she needs some relief standers.” Merci tilts her head and thinks about what she just said. “I think what I meant is- I don’t know how to explain it.”

“I think I can help,” Buddy offers. “Jan has been writing for Mr. God for free, just to help encourage other folks. She works hard, investing a lot of time and effort into making her site a place of refuge. She doesn’t feel safe there any more. Is that what you were trying to say, Merci?”

“Yes, something like that, Buddy. And she has some friends who write for Mr. God for free too - at least at this time it’s without pay. They agree people shouldn’t steal. But there is this concept among many Christian writers that they write for Mr. God, and since everything belongs to him, as long as what is stolen is encouraging someone, it’s okay.”

“Huh?” Cameron is astounded. “That doesn’t make any sense!”

“No, it doesn’t,” Cyndi agrees. “If Jan invites someone inside to sit on a chair and visit, her visitor isn’t supposed to steal the chair or keep coming back for more chairs.”

Cotton nods. “I’ve heard Jan say everything she has belongs to Mr. God, but she wouldn’t put a sign on the lawn: I’m not home, but everything here belongs to Mr. God. Please come in and help yourself to anything you find.

Buddy’s long ears try to stand, as he jerks to attention. “They better not touch my food! Or my toys. I’ll fight for them.”

“Oh, Buddy,” Crystal laughs, “you can give them your stuffed bone with the broken squeaker in it.”

“I will not! I love that bone.”

Merci brings them back on course. “Guys, this is about stealing stories. Your bones are safe, Buddy.” Buddy starts to open his mouth. “And your food is safe too.” Buddy relaxes.

Percy has been unusually quiet. “I think I see the problem. We should shoot the thieves.”

“No!” Merci yelps. “Jan says some people are thieves and nothing will stop them.” She tilts her head, thoughtfully for a minute. “Well, maybe those thieves should be shot.”

“Merci! That’s so unlike you. You’re usually such a peaceable girl.”

“Sorry, Cyndi. I did get carried away. Jan says many thieves just need to be educated in what they are doing wrong and how to go about it the correct way, and if writers don’t want to be involved in helping to educate the thieves, the thieves will multiply faster than rabbits. Writers need to unite and protect one another as best they can. Including us. So I’m writing a letter to Mr. God, asking him to encourage Jan to keep MAP and JFF online, so others can enjoy her work and ours.”

“And be sure to include a link to Jan’s story on how to share articles without stealing,” Percy adds.

Merci resumes typing, with frequent input from the group. When she is finished, the letter reads:

Dear Mr. God,

You already know how sad Jan has been all week because someone stole stories from her and her writing friends. (“Stealing Pieces of My Heart.”) Percy and Merci regret suggesting we shoot the thief, but we do agree with Jan that something should be done to stop this abuse of writers. They – we (we write too, you know) are hardworking and generous in sharing our lives. We deserve as much respect as the mill workers, truck drivers and other hardworking backbone-of-America employees and volunteers. So please help her stand on her old, tired feet a little longer to help encourage others to stand up for themselves too, since Jan thinks writers should respect themselves, their craft and their Mr.-God-given talents. And if it would encourage her to keep the two sites open, we’re all in agreement – we would give Jan (and only Jan) permission to copy our journal.

Respectfully yours,
Merci, Buddy, Crystal, Cotton, Cyndi, Percy and Cameron,
The Funny Farm Writing Club
And Jenny, honorary member of the FFWC

Friday, July 08, 2005


Died July 8, 2005, Age 14

Copyright 2005 Janice Price

“What’s going on, guys?” Buddy asks when he enters the living room and finds the other Funny Farm residents gathered around Percy at the computer. They are all staring at the computer monitor and whispering among themselves. At the sound of Buddy’s voice, Percy taps the keyboard to close the email they have all been reading. “You’ve been reading Jan’s messages again, haven’t you, Percy? Come on, let me see what is so interesting.”

“I don’t know, Buddy,” Cyndi says doubtfully. “You’ll get upset.”

“Yeah,” Cameron says, “you’re highly emotional, Buddy.”

Buddy stares at the group. “I am not highly emotional. What is going on?”

Cotton makes a suggestion. “Perhaps Crystal should climb the porch shelves and knock down the box of dog biscuits so we can feed Buddy first.”

Buddy eyes her suspiciously. “Feed me first? You are always complaining about how much I eat. Now you want to feed me. What’s the catch?”

“Show him the picture,” Merci tells Percy.

Percy taps a few keys and opens an email attachment. “This is Murphy. Mr. Jimmy sent this photograph to Jan this afternoon.”

“So that’s what he looks like.” Buddy moves closer to the monitor and rests his chin on the desk. “He’s smaller than I pictured him but he’s a handsome guy, isn’t he? I’ll have to email him and tell him …”

Crystal interrupts. “You can’t do that, Buddy. Murphy passed away during the night..”

Buddy sits up straight. “What? Why didn’t someone tell me? Jan didn’t even tell me he was sick.” He rushes toward the front door, stands on his hind legs, knocks everything on top of the bookcase to the floor and roots frantically through the mess. “Where are Jan’s car keys? I have to get to Atlanta. I’ll miss Murphy’s funeral if I don’t find those keys ”

“Jan has the car keys, Buddy. She drove the car to the store.”

“But Percy, I have to get to Atlanta and find Mr. Jimmy. He doesn’t have anyone now. He needs me.”

“Buddy,” Merci says gently, “you never followed through with your driver’s license after that one driving lesson. You don’t actually know how to drive a car.”

“And what would you do in Atlanta? You don’t know anyone there. You don’t even know where Mr. Jimmy lives.”

“I’ll look him up in the Atlanta phone book, Cameron. There can’t be too many guys named Mr. Jimmy listed in the white pages.”

“But what if he doesn’t want to see you? He might just want to be left alone tonight.”

Buddy sits down, appalled at Cyndi’s suggestion. “But everyone needs someone to talk to when there’s a death. We can talk about Murphy and how he volunteered to be the first student at my bed making school. Oh, if only Mr. Jimmy allowed Murphy to drive after dark. I could have taught him how to make a prize winning bed.” Buddy shakes his head at the memory.

“I’ve read Mr. Jimmy’s web site, ,” Cotton interjects. “He has a friend named Joe, co-workers, people he goes to church with, teenagers he takes camping and Taco Belling. (I think that’s something like bobsledding.) He isn’t alone, Buddy. His friends will take care of him. He’ll be okay.”

Crystal adds, “Buddy, it was just two weeks ago today your friend Benji died. I think you’re still grieving for him.”

“Yes,” Merci says, “I think you need the company of a friend tonight too.” She walks over to sit next to Buddy amid the assortment of leashes, harnesses and junk he has thrown to the floor in his haste to locate the car keys.

One by one the cats join them. Percy looks Buddy in the eyes and states, “We’re your friends, Buddy. When you hurt, we hurt. So we’re going to sit here with you and you can talk all you want to about your old pal Murphy. That’s what friends are for.”

A tear slips down Buddy’s face. “Thanks, guys. I don’t know what to say.”

The Funny Farm residents lock teary eyes for a moment, then softly they say, as one, “Good-bye, Murphy. And bless you, Mr. Jimmy, for taking such good care of Buddy’s friend.”